When you watch one of Great Brak River’s resident Vervet Monkeys ripping open an abandoned black bag of waste or high tailing it away from someone’s house stolen food in hand, what do you actually see and how do you respond?
Do you see a shrinking habitat that can no longer support the dietary needs of its inhabitants, forcing a diet once sourced from the natural environment to be found amongst the plastic and waste generated by a supposed more intelligent species? What about a calculated calorie counter who understands the balance between calories gained and those expended? Do you see a gap in the waste management system, where the responsibility for the rubbish we generate needs to go further than once it leaves our front door and where we have to understand how society’s choices impact the fauna around us?
Is this a problem animal worthy of death, a charity case that needs feeding or a vital part of the ecosystem, whose place in the town should be recognised and protected?
Highly opportunistic and adapted to the flaws within our daily lives Vervet monkeys play an important role as agents of seed dispersal and forestry management in the environment and natural ecosystems. Their movements through the canopy dislodge dead branches and damaged or malformed fruit allowing more sunlight penetration and feeding the forest floor. The seeds of indigenous fruits that are ingested pass through the monkey’s digestive system intact and are excreted some distance away from where they were originally consumed. This spreading of genetics and ensuring of diversity can even help to rehabilitate disturbed areas back into indigenous forest and we all know that we need more trees.
Whether a cunning nuisance or innocent victim before you reach for an air rifle, stone or bunch of bananas let’s see what the law says…yes, there are laws for Vervet Monkeys. Vervet Monkeys are protected by both national and provincial conservation legislation as well as by national animal protection legislation. Thus the killing, injuring or even feeding of them is an offence and those convicted can be liable to a hefty fine and even imprisonment.
Maybe we and conservation need to be a bit more proactive and less reactive, after all they have adapted to us so when are we going to adapt to them?
Ways to live alongside Vervet Monkeys:
- use bins with lockable lids, on refuse day leave rubbish out for as short as possible
- don’t feed Monkeys
- don’t leave fruit or other foodstuffs within eyesight or near open doors or windows
- be aware that your pet’s food maybe attracting unwanted attention
- plant indigenous fruit bearing plants
- if you see litter or that monkeys have made a mess, pick it up before it spreads.
Attached photo: a resident Vervet Monkey/ Blouaap (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) Photographed by Hannetjie Potgieter in Great Brak River