Caretaker vs vervet monkeys: the struggle of deworming wild monkeys

At some point during your animal caretaking job, animals get sick or injured and you need to give them something.

And here is where the journey begins…

(After years giving meds, I still don’t know why they can’t make them taste nice for the animals. That would make our job so much easier!)

If you never have given meds to an animal you don´t know how difficult that can be.

But if you have, you will understand perfectly what I am talking about.

First time deworming monkeys

Before I arrived at the VMF I had some knowledge and practical skills deworming or giving meds to pets. So I thought that this would be more or less the same.

Soon I would discover how wrong I was

First of all we are talking about deworming 30-40 monkeys at the same time.

And second, you have to recognize all of them (so that you don’t give one monkey the same dewormer twice).

But let’s start from the beginning…

Preparing the “dewormers”

When I was doing a troop deworming I always tried to start early. That way I could make the dewormers and start giving them as soon as possible.

I do this for a simple reason: In the mornings the monkeys are hungry and that increases the chances to succeed.

There are a lot of different ways to make dewormers.

You need to know the preferences of the monkeys you are deworming and what kind of dewormer you are using (liquid or powder).

We had 2 different ones at the VMF: albendazol (bright blue liquid), and pirantel, a yellow powder.

The best days were when you had to deworm with pirantel. It has almost no taste or smell and it is very easy to hide in a piece of banana.

But when it was albendazol day you wish you hadn’t gotten out of bed…

The bright blue color would make it very difficult to hide from the monkeys. And then of course you had the awful taste of it.

Some monkey would just literally throw it away and wipe their hands on the ground to get rid of this liquid ?.

So, after cursing or blessing your luck, you have to start making the dewormers.

Normally we made jam sandwiches. Monkeys love it and it is a special treat they only get on very special occasions.

The sweet jam hides the taste of the dewormer.

But of course, you have to make some other treats for the “special” once.

Some monkeys are keener of cucumber, banana or broccoli.

Throwing skills

Once you are done with the making of the dewormers, the real struggle begins…

I never thought that I would have to improve my throwing skills while working with animals.

But yes, it is a pretty useful skill to have.

When you work with wild animals you have to know that most of the times they will be far away from where you are.

Some of them are low rank and would get into trouble if the other monkeys see that it takes something from you and others just don’t like to be around humans (even if you walk in a banana suit?).

So, throwing is an essential skill needed as an animal caretaker!

(I even have considered it to put it on my CV)?

Walking in circles

Another thing you do a lot when you are deworming, is walking. You can easily spent a whole day walking around the enclosure to find and deworm all the monkeys.

Most low rank monkeys only show up when the rest are resting or busy with something else. In the meantime you have to keep going around to find the perfect opportunity to give them their dewormer.

But hey, at least your phone will congratulate you on the amount of steps you did that day!

(BTW your legs will not)

My tricks

After deworming a lot of different troops during my stay at the VMF, I think that I can say that I have picked up some tricks to make it easier (at least for me).

Some of my deworming tricks are:

  • As I said before, I like to start early, so that I can deworm as many monkeys in the morning as possible. Deworming monkeys after they had their breakfast is a bit more complicated, just because they have a full belly and don’t want anything you try to offer them.
  • Make the dewormers as small as possible. The monkeys need to be able to stuff it in their mouth and be able to run away with it.
  • Monkeys are very suspicious, so try to mask the flavour of the dewormer as good as possible so that they don’t suspect anything.
  • Take some “distractions” with you. Having seeds or something else to distract the other monkeys is essential. Also, when you have a big troop, throwing seeds around helps attracted the low rank monkeys out of their hiding spots.
  • Act like you are just walking around for fun. Sounds silly, but as soon as the monkeys realize you have nice treats for them in your pocket, they will follow you around all the time and chase other monkeys away.

What are your deworming tricks?

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