Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pretoria says goodbye to monkey troop

Facing extinction, vervet monkeys that have been a part of Pretoria since its establishment more than a century ago will no longer be seen roaming the area.

The Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (RWRC) said on Monday that about 60 vervet monkeys will be relocated from Garsfontein to the Dinokeng Nature Reserve near Hammanskraal, north-east of Pretoria, by May 9.

The centre's primatologist Bob Venter said vervet or green monkeys are medium-sized primates from the family of old-world monkeys. They are commonly found around South Africa and are classified as vermin.

He said vervet monkeys face extinction due to increased degradation of natural vegetation in Pretoria for the purposes of residential and corporate development. "With the ever-increasing need for human settlement, natural areas disappeared and with it whatever wildlife which had adapted to these changes."

Venter said the development of a new shopping mall and a golf course across the foraging range of the monkeys left them with very little natural vegetation. The monkeys were forced to search for food in the gardens of residents and business complexes.

While some residents enjoyed the close encounters with the monkeys, others who could not endure them shot at them with pellet guns, poisoned them and even burned them with hot liquid.

Wildlife conservationists who were concerned about the monkeys established the Friends of the Vervet Monkey in 1999. In cooperation with Tshwane Municipal Nature Conservation, it decided on a plan of action to prevent the extinction of the last remaining two troops of vervet monkeys in the Moreleta Spruit area.

It was decided that the relocation to a natural area that could sustain them was the only option if the monkeys were to survive.

"It took the Friends of the Vervet Monkey and RWRC close to two years to find a suitable release site with sustainable food resources and property owners that are keen to have the monkeys," said Venter.

"Land owners André and Marlize Boshoff, being part of the newly developed Dinokeng Nature Reserve near Hammanskraal, kindly offered the release site."

After the necessary environmental-impact assessments, the first capture took place on April 10.

"Once the animals were trapped, they received a microchip for identification purposes before they were transported to the Dinokeng release enclosure," said Venter. "RWRC's observers are monitoring the captured monkeys' activities, providing feeding and water daily. The RWRC will continue to monitor them for another three months to ensure that they have adapted to their new environment."

Christina Vosloo, a member of Friends of the Vervet Monkey, said while monkeys will no longer roam the area of the Apies River, which historians claim was named after the monkeys, the 60 monkeys that are being relocated have found a new home.

"From the beginning of May 2007, Garsfontein will be without monkeys for the first time ever. Sad, no apies will be left to name a river after. But for the 60 monkeys a new life has started. May Dinokeng flourish and grow," she said. -- Sapa

Story here.

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