AIR gun attacks against monkeys in Ballito continue to infuriate Monkey Helpline staff. The helpline’s Steve Smit and Carol Booth have recently made a number of monkey rescues in Ballito, all of them having been shot with air guns. They rescued two injured monkeys in Ballito Gardens earlier, and last week they picked up two injured monkeys at a Hillary Road residence and Sara Crescent in Seaward Estate respectively. “All four suffered terribly due to the injuries they sustained from having lead air gun pellets shot into their bodies,” said Smit. So far, as in previous years, 2014 has already been “air gun hell” for monkeys in KZN, the volunteers say. “With the exception of only three days in January so far, we have been called to rescue at least one air gun-shot monkey every day,” said Smit. He explained that besides the cruelty factor involved, discharging an air gun in a built-up or residential area is an offence in terms of the Firearms Control Act. “Any person contravening the law controlling the use of air guns can, and should, be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law allows.” Booth says that it is heart-breaking to rescue a perfectly healthy vervet monkey who has been paralysed by a lead air gun pellet lodged in its spine, witness its pain and fear, then transport the suffering animal to a vet and stand by as it is euthanased — the only humane option available to Monkey Helpline. “People often say that we should keep them alive and look after them,” says Booth, “but I tell them that this is not possible, and anyway, there are no wheelchairs for monkeys.” Booth said they have seen monkeys left severely brain-damaged, blinded, slowly suffocate after being shot in the abdomen or lungs, or struggle along after having their arm or leg bones shattered. Booth is unapologetic in her defence of vervet monkeys. “The fact is that the vervet monkeys found around residential suburbs are actually living in their ancestral home and are merely trying to survive in an increasingly monkey-unfriendly world. “Nothing a monkey does in or around your home can justify the excessive violence that goes with the shooting of these animals with an air gun. “They are not a threat to the safety of children or adults and will only defend themselves by biting if severely provoked or seriously threatened,” Booth said. Also, they do not randomly attack domestic dogs or other pets, biting only when they themselves are attacked or when coming to the defence of another monkey who is under physical attack by a dog. Booth said what is needed is for the government to introduce laws controlling or banning the unconditional private ownership of air guns, and that people make the small effort required to understand the monkeys and their way of life better. For more information about monkeys, see www.monkeyhelpline.co.za, or visit the Facebook page, Monkey Helpline South Africa. For rescues of injured, sick or displaced monkeys, or to report shooting incidents call Steve on 082 659 4711 or or Carol on 082 411 5444.