Now that we are starting baby season again, I cannot help but to remember the first time I took care of an orphan baby monkey. Summer in South Africa does not only bring rain and humidity, but also orphan baby vervets.
Vera arrived on a sunny day in December 2018. She was not the first baby to arrive at the Vervet Monkey Foundation and will sadly not be the last one. That season, the VMF rescued in total 25 babies.
What do we do with the baby vervets?
Once an orphan baby arrives at the VMF they follow several stages, from learning how to drink milk from a bottle to finding a foster mum and be released into a big troop.
Vera was only a few days old when she arrived and because she was taken away from her mum at that age, she didn’t know what a vervet monkey was.
First step: quarantine
First we had to make sure that her physical and mental state were good. Apart from her physical injuries, she was also stressed, scared and in shock. She got attached to blankets and made it very clear that she didn’t want to be separated from them.
After a diagnosis, the appropriate treatment was applied (in Vera´s case it was Rescue Remedy and Arnica). At the VMF we use a lot of natural medicine.
Vera spent her three days in quarantine with always someone watching her. Time enough for her to recover and get used to her new home and temporary foster mums: us.
After quarantine they deserve to go to Disneyland
The second step was for Vero to move to Disneyland. This is the playground for babies, where they jump, climb and play with other babies. They also begin to eat solid food and grass (it is an important part of their diet). First they get food that they can easily digest, like fruits and cucumber.
In Disneyland everything is fun! Vera played a lot with the other babies. She made friends with Diane, a sassy little baby that, like Vera, also lost her mum; and learned how to climb and drink milk from the feeding cage.
Feeding cages are small cube-shaped cages where we can place the milk bottles from the outside and the babies have to enter through a hole. The holes have the perfect size for only babies to enter, preventing juveniles and adults from stealing the bottles.
It was very important for Vera to learn how to do that, because, although she was getting a new mum, this female could not provide her with the milk she needed.
Meet the foster mums
Once she was ready, we started to introduce her to her possible new foster mum. We put the babies in a small enclosure that is attached the space of a troop of vervets. Sometimes we have more than one baby in that enclosure.
But Vera didn’t make it easy for us on the first attempt with the SAAV troop.
Although she was with Horst (baby boy that she also met in Disneyland) in the same enclosure, Vera didn’t stop screaming. She drove us and the females crazy. No monkey wanted to get close to her.
So, although Horst found his foster mum, we had to look for another one for Vera.
Some attempts later…
It took two more attempts. First with the Goliath troop, but that also didn’t work out, and finally with the Skrow troop.
The Skrow troop was luckily the chosen one. The first day Vera moved to the enclosure she didn’t stop screaming the whole day.
When we saw that she was not trying to fit in, we decided that maybe she would do better if Diane was in the same enclosure.
Diane already had a foster mum, Bernadette. When Vera saw that Diane was with her, she finally stopped screaming and slowly also allowed Bernadette to hug and groom her.
Out into the troop
Once Vera and Diane were happy with Bernadette as a foster mum and they also got to know the juveniles and some other females, they were ready to leave the enclosure and meet the whole troop.
When the day of their release came, we were all very nervous but luckily everything went well.
Vera followed Bernadette and Diane. That same day we saw her with another adult female and playing with juveniles.
Now, almost a year later, Vera is an important part of the troop. She spends her days playing, drinking milk, eating and still hopping on her mother’s back when she is scared.
It is amazing to see how much she likes her new family and troop life!