Mika and her journey from pet to wild vervet monkey

If you have seen my previous post you will already know who Mika is.

If you didn’t, don’t worry, you can have a look at it here!.

At the Vervet Monkey Foundation, when a vervet monkey arrives, it goes straight to quarantine. And of course, so did Mika when she arrived.

Quarantine sounds scary (especially now that we have experienced quarantine for several months), but don’t worry, this quarantine is special.

It is a wooden cabin where the babies stay only the first 3 days.

It is very cozy and it is provided with everything they may need during these days. We even have a bed in it! (The bed is more for the caretakers, because we have to spend the night with the babies).

Normally, when babies arrive they have to learn how to drink milk from a bottle. But Mika was old and healthy enough to skip that part.

With Mika, the most difficult part of her rehabilitation was getting her used to monkey company instead of humans.

Mika´s start in life

Mika was kept as a pet her whole life.

We don’t know how she arrived with her human family. Most likely her mum was killed and she was found alone.

The thing is, when ex pets arrive we normally don’t know much about their past and the circumstances they were kept in human care.

Keeping vervet monkeys as pets is not allowed in South Africa. Sadly that doesn’t prevent getting every year some ex pet monkeys.

Luckily for Mika, the people that took care of her realized at one point that it was not wise keeping her. They wanted to give her the chance to life again surrounded by her own species.

First weeks of integration

In the beginning Mika made our lives a bit difficult. She liked to bite her caretakers whenever she didn’t agree with something.

When her quarantine days were over, we moved her to an intro cage next to Skrow troop.

We moved her there so that she could see monkeys and get used to them. Of course, we were still there with here to protect her and comfort her whenever she got scared.

This troop was going to be her new monkey family.

Normally, when introducing a monkey to the troop, we start directly with small meetings. The new monkey is in an intro cage and from time to time we allow other monkeys to join.

In the beginning we only allow the monkeys we trust the most and see how they react to the new member.

But because Mika was raised by humans we wanted her transition from human to monkey to be as soft as possible.

That means that we had to treat her like a small baby monkey and be with her 24/7 until she was ready to meet her new family.

A long, long process…

Every integration is different…

Baby integrations are normally very quick. The females love to take care of babies and quickly adopt orphan babies.

But Mika was a bit older and very humanized. She didn’t know how to behave like a normal monkey.

In the wild, monkeys her age are more independent and know how to stay out of trouble, because their mum will not be there all the time anymore to protect them.

So, Mika’s next step into full integration was learning how to stay out of trouble.

It was not going to be easy…

Meet Skrow troop

This troop is one of the troops I love the most. They have a lot of juveniles and it is amazing to see them all play together.

The alpha female is also a good leader and keeps a good balance in the troop. There are also a lot of good foster mums that like difficult babies (check out Vera’s story).

And they have some of my favorite monkeys!

This was the perfect fit for Mika. A lot of brothers and sisters to play with, caring females, monkeys that are used to weird juveniles, patient high rank females…

But of course, Mika didn’t see that yet.

For her it was just all very confusing and scary.

Months went by…

Baby season past, rainy season ended, winter came (not like Game of Thrones, but almost), all the babies were in their new troops and here I was… still next to Mika´s intro cage…

She was taking her time.

Inside the intro cage with her she had her eternal companion: Polar.

Polar is the perfect foster mum, very patient and sweet. So, perfect to teach Mika all the monkey tricks

She became also friends with Thomas William and Riley, two of my favorite monkeys from this troop.

These two boys are very sweet and liked to play with Mika. Well, not at the beginning when she used to slap everyone xD. But eventually they learned Mika’s way of playing.

She was making progress, but it was not going anywhere. She needed to become more confident and get outside her comfort zone (in her case it was the intro cage).

She did it!

Slowly she started to get more adventurous. We gave her the chance to go outside every time she wanted.

Eventually she made the conection. Being outside was not that bad, it could be sometimes scary, but 99% of the times no other monkey was paying any attention to what Mika was doing.

This gave her more confidence and started to go outside more and more.

She climbed in several trees close to her intro cage. She was eating next to other monkeys.

And most importantly, eventually she was having positive interactions with other monkeys from her troop.

I could almost not believe it! There was light at the end of the tunnel!

Two weeks before I had to leave South Africa, Mika finally got outside and joined the troop. She didn’t want to be in the intro cage anymore.

She was happy with her new family.

And I was happy we finally got to teach her how to be a monkey again!

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