a.p.e. (a primate experience)

ORPHANED BABIES incl: my personal experience (Timmy and Robbie)


Many baby monkeys are orphaned each year when their mothers are shot or run over by cars or attacked by dogs/people. Rearing them is full of pitfalls, as a humanized monkey is the very last thing you need if it is ever to go free. Yes it can go free but it takes a long time before it is ready to join the wild troop, admittedly it is far easier if you have a training troop to asset you but it is imperative that they get to know the infant right from the start, the younger the better for the infant to be introduced, it is extremely difficult to get them to accept an infant that already has its grey coat, the older the youngster the more difficult it is. You may think you are caring for its needs by keeping it longer than necessary, wrong all you are doing is causing it pain and heartache, it will be bitten and could even be killed if proper care is not taken when introducing it to a troop, even older youngsters can be a problem they like their human counterparts often bully a newcomer.

Limit human dependence as soon as you can and install a natural fear in the infants of dogs to ensure they do not approach dogs or humans as friends when they are released. Do not bathe them it removes essential body oils affects their ability to manufacture  vitamin D if necessary wipe them clean with damp cloth.

When weaning is possible wean on to food they will find in the wild, natural foods will include bananas, paw paw, mango, guava, insect, lizards, eggs, grasses ,roots, flowers, corn, nuts and seeds they should have seed and corn sprinkled on the floor of their cage to teach them to forage, protein is vital to their diet and should account for 25% of their diet.

Once weaned you have to teach them to fear their biggest enemy MAN. If you have monkeys in an enclosure ready for release into a troop do not allow visitors or feeding by hand by anyone, monkeys should be encouraged to retain their fear of strangers both animal and humans, if you raise monkeys to trust any humans you may as well  put a bullet in their heads yourselves.You have a duty to see that no harm befalls them from misplaced trust.

Never try to release a group of infants and juveniles with no protective adults – they will not survive.

In conclusion it can be appreciated that very few, if any, monkeys are beyond rehabilitation, it is a question of patience, territory and a considerable reliance on the personality and character of the individual animal none should be treated as lost causes until everything possible has been  done.

Monkeys should be free with their companions, their own kind in their own domain, all they ask for is a full stomach, to play and enjoy their own families, The old adage “If you love something, set it free” has never been more applicable








Timmy came to me first, a  local lady had just acquired a baby monkey having been told that its mother had been shot, he was very small and obviously distressed, so much so I wondered what his chances of survival were. This baby slept on me for two days hardly taking any milk but gradually gaining confidence in the fact I was here to help him. On day three he started to take his bottles along with constantly sucking my ear for comfort, arriving weiging only 100grams he trebled his weight in the first week and all concerns about his survival were dismissed.


Timmy was very small and probably only about 10 days old, he was not interested in any food other than milk and watching his development was interesting, within three days he was learning to pick things up and hold them in his hands and his climbing skills improved every day, each day I would take him outside and sit with him while he naturally tried to forage and very gradually started to climb small branches, it was like watching your child grow up. He very quickly became totally dependant on me and was not happy to be out of my sight, he never left me and spent most of his time on my shoulder sucking my ears which were by now very sore, it is an amazing experience to have such a tiny being with you constantly even when you have your own children you can put them to bed but this is different these babies remain with you 24/7.



Next came Robbie, the story was that her mother had been eaten, she was extremley traumatised and would not stop crying she cried for days, constantly calling for her mother, I believe she saw some terrible things for her to be this badly affected, she would not settle and had to be wrapped tightly in a blanket to give her some security, after a couple of days of real heartache she settled slighlty and started to attach herself to Timmy as if he was her mother this was difficult for Timmy as they were the same size and it made it very difficult for him to even move.


 there were many fights especially at night when all Timmy wanted to do was suck on my ear and go to sleep, it caused a lot of sleeplessness for us all. After a fortnight the two monkeys started to become very attached to each other and be a little more adventurous they would leave the security of my shoulder and play together, I would take them outside daily and although it always took Robbie longer to settle as she was still very scared they would both play together, the weather was very hot and I was fortunate to have the use of a swimming pool so many hours were spent playing together in the water, these monkeys love the water and it is a great way to keep cool. They both started to climb quite high and were becoming very independant they would leave me now for extended periods and the time had come for me to detach myself gradually, I had done my job in giving them the best possible start in the abscence of their mother.



Another baby arrived the day I was leaving his mother had been run over and a courier had kindly stopped and found him attached to his mother, this baby we decided should definetly be  called Lucky,  he is very small but he has the companionship of Timmy and Robbie, all three monkeys will grow up together and give each other support.



I made my way back to Karin in Plettenberg Bay to see how fortunate she is with her babies, she has older Vervet Monkeys in her care and is able to use them to foster the babies she gets in. To see these monkeys pick up the young babies and mother them and hold them so close is really emotional it shows just what these babies have lost in their mother, Karin has two monkeys that foster for her one called Monkey and the other caled Jack they both take the babies and bring them to karin to be fed, they take on their role as mother very seriously, even Jack who is a male fosters them with so much love, it is heartwarming to watch a little family developing. There is an older male Mr no hands who has been with Karin now for several months, he lost both arms in a snare and cannot be rehabilitated, these babies have given him a new lease of life he stands over them protecting them and I am lost for words to explain how emotional it is to see this family unit, all the monkeys even last years babies look after these small ones and even though I know I did my best for my orphaned babies nothing can replace a monkey substitute mother.



I love this picture it shows the start of a family and Mr No Hands is so proud of his adopted baby this little baby has a good and secure life ahead of him.




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