Cute Little Thieves

posted in: Mom's Musings | 2

People go to the zoo and they like the lion because it’s scary. And the bear because it’s intense, but the monkey makes people laugh.

-Lorne Michaels

We were greeted on arrival to Berg-en-Dal camp by a few scattered vervet monkeys. At first, they’re adorable.

I could watch the tiny ones play for hours, jumping from tree branch to tree branch. They were very common in the park and often in the campground, but just a cool distraction while you were walking around. At the second camp, we didn’t see any. Then, our first night at Crocodile Bridge, as we were carrying our stuff to the safari tents, Ella and I decided we couldn’t wait any longer to run to the restroom. On our way, we noticed an older lady gesturing to us and pointing to a car. When we looked several monkeys had invaded a car and Ella started laughing, and then I realized it was our car with an open trunk! But we had already removed all the food, what in the world? Then, Ella and I remembered we’d stuffed a bag of cookies in the back pouch of the seat. Sure enough, the little squirt was eating our cookies in the tree. We felt really bad as the lady scowled at us for our irresponsibility. The camp was covered in vervet monkeys! They jumped and scurried everywhere. They rattled the trees above us and occasionally screamed at us.

Later that night, while Chris was braaing, they decided he was in their space and the dominant male started his “kek-kek-kek,” while trying to pee on Chris. That next morning they did the same to me! Then on our way to the car before sunrise, we noticed several perched on top of the car. Luckily, they were easily scared away for us to leave. But then, as we started to drive away, (we always open the windows to hear the sounds), we smelled the overwhelming odor of monkey urine. We had noticed the smell the last two times they had tried to mark us, but we couldn’t find it anywhere in the car specifically. Then, we determined they had most likely peed all over the outside.


Slowly, the smell seemed to wear off, especially since the smell of elephant poop took over after we had unavoidably driven through it. For lunch, we stopped at a picnic area to make sandwiches. The vervet monkeys were everywhere again, but we were all together and not under a tree. As we sat finishing our meal of chips, sandwiches, and apples, out of nowhere a monkey swooped in and grabbed Chris’s apple off his plate and ran into a tree. It was hilarious!

No warning, except Ella had noticed him stalking toward us. Everyone in the vicinity started laughing and being a little more aware of the little thieves. We quickly gathered our picnic supplies, since we were finished, But as the kids and Chris walked away, and I was finishing up the table, three approached rapidly at the same time, glaring at the apples I was carrying. I yelled out before I knew it, seeing my dilemma. But, thankfully, they were just hesitant enough to let me get away.

The next night, Ella was sitting on a bench and they tried to steal her shoes off her feet! She sent Walden’s shirt flying at them to try and scare them off. So… they have started to seem a little less cute! … But I still love to watch them.

We came across a story in Indonesia in which the macaques have started to barter! They steal a tourist’s eyeglasses or other valuables and hold them until somebody feeds them. Then they drop the glasses and run off with the treasure they want.

 

Baboons, on the other hand, are a bit more intimidating.

The fourth evening, as we were doing our sunset drive in our little Toyota Venza, a huge troop of them crossed the road.

They were play fighting, strutting, hauling babies on their backs and letting them hang under there chests. They were a delight to watch; but for the first time our entire trip, the camera battery ran out!! We watched for at least 30 minutes, cracking up at the little ones riding along, propped up against their mothers’ tails. They were all grooming each other and the boys were trying to look tough. They cracked us up, all laid back and scratching their bottoms.

The large ones though are definitely threatening. They are clearly there to protect the rest and you should keep your distance.

Their sexual identities are a bit bold and alarming I must say – the female’s ischial callosities get swollen and red when they are in oestrus. It looks like a huge cancerous growth. And, if you hang around long enough, you will get to see more than you bargained for.

The large groups may be ruled by up to 12 males. Pregnancy lasts 6 months, but man there are a lot of them; they must stay pregnant constatnly.

They are omnivorous and even eat the smaller vervet monkeys sometimes. You do not see these 2 species hanging out together.

Lots of people just pass them by, but I think they are always fun to watch for a spell!

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