I never know what to expect when i go to a sanctuary, yes there is information i can read but i have no idea how the animals will react to me and me to them. The people, well that is another story, they are humans after all.
After leaving CT, and my cat behind, I felt very sad at the thought that Minx might miss me, she might even feel like I abandoned her. She was with my mom, and I tried to acclimatize her to the new environment, over a few days.
Travelling for what seemed like almost all day from ORT, we arrived at the foundation at night…so introductions were brief. I met Hana who is from Germany and has been at the VMF for a few years. I was shown my cabin, the lounge and the kitchen…and my timing was perfect, tasty Vegan food was on display and I was asked “are you hungry” I was not but my eyes saw different…yum, I dove in.
The next morning was orientation and I met Rentia….and as the days progressed I met everyone else…Dave and Josie too, the owners and Ceo’s of the VMF.
Over 11 huge enclosures, over 500 monkeys with 3 Somangos and all need feeding, care and water every day
My day would start around 6.15..(never been a great one for early mornings) and some mornings were freezing cold, 9 degrees..so i bundled up in as many clothes and scarfs as i could and made my way up to the kitchen…that coffee was calling my name.
I had just enough time to gobble a banana, it was too early anyway for me to eat. Every day there is a new rota and today I was on AM plates…mmm that should be interesting.
I was met at the main feed center by another long term volunteer and we started cleaning veggies and fruit…chopping them up for over 50 plates, corn being the monkeys favorite. I got used to the bandits, the wild monkeys hanging around hoping for any tasty morsel we would throw at them…or they managed to steal from a bowl.
The next duty would be to walk around plus minus 5 enclosures checking water, and the electric fence. This would take around an hour and half…this is when i started to learn about the animals..their lives now, where they came from and what happened to them.
Many are ex pets..and if you dont know about the pet trade, read on.
Breakfast was about half hour…now i was hungry.. then came two more shifts until lunch…I was on for milks. This entailed collecting, cleaning, and replenishing the milk bottles with milk and then delivery..lots of walking, more than i have ever done in my life. With around 11 enclosures within the first week my legs could feel the pain.
Lunch was always amazing; with a chef on duty he really cooked up a storm..the best Vegan dishes i could imagine…now I am thinking I am going to put on weight.
After lunch, another two shifts…could be milks, water checking, disinfecting the cages etc etc.
Diner…need I say more…by 5pm I was pooped out…too tired to move..but feeling so good too.
Is there anything more rewarding than working with animals and some really amazing people who truly care for the monkeys?
For me, sleep came quick, in bed at around 7.30 and zzzzzz…too tired to stay awake for games, series and chatter.
As the weeks progressed…life followed the same kind of routine; up early taking care of the animals and I slowly learned that not only are these monkeys ex pets, but many have been shot with pellets, leaving some animals blind or some having to be put down. Some have been left orphaned by car accidents, or the mother was shot and the baby orphaned.
A week after I arrived a call came in…my mom, Minx ran away..my worst fears had come true. Both my mom and Tania were traumatised. A day later Tania called and said there is a cat who is coming to a ladies house and she is giving her food. Days followed of me asking questions, is she a tabby, can this lady not catch her..to cut a long story short, after 3 weeks I flew home to see if I can get her. Catch her I did, after one day of being back. I called her in the neighbourhood and I heard a soft meow. I knew that was her…I caught her and took her to my sisters’ house and there I stayed for over a month getting her acclimatized.
To get back to the VMF and the monkeys.
I met Sybil and Shanti Rey, the blind vervets, shot with pellet guns. I fell in love immediately with Sybil
I learned about the troops, the feeding, some of their communication, the enclosures and the intro cages and what it meant to for an animal to be humanized and why that is a problem.
These animals will not be released, they can not. Their enclosures are huge and they are very very happy in them.
I learned about eyebrowing, re-directing, and how they will look to others in a troop for comfort and for support. Grooming is fascinating, performed for many reasons….it feels good, it releases endorphins, it is a way to make up after a fight, it is also to show respect and much more.
It is the females who are in control, they are the bosses in Vervet monkey society.
My first Kruger trip
After time back in CT and getting ods and ends done…and knowing that Minx was happy…I flew back to ORT. This was Sept 11th. I was picked up by shuttle and off I went to DIY in Badplaas, an hour and half from Nelspruit.