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Monkeys: To feed or not to feed

It is important for people to know that in certain areas in South Africa, there are no laws prohibiting the feeding of monkeys around your home or in public places. However, specific rules which prohibit the feeding of monkeys in private housing- or eco-estates and also within formal conservation areas must be adhered to.

Although feeding monkeys by hand or from your doors and windows or on your verandah is strongly discouraged, many people do feed monkeys. So, if you feel the need to feed monkeys around your house, how can this be done in a manner that will not cause problems for you, your neighbours or the monkeys?

When you feed monkeys by hand or throw food to them you teach them to take food from people, which increases the chances of monkeys grabbing food from the hands of people who do not wish to share their food with monkeys. This can be a frightening and unpleasant experience, especially for small children, and simply adds fuel to the fires stoked by ignorant, monkey-intolerant people.

Monkeys who are used to getting close to humans for food become vulnerable to those people who deliberately want to hurt, kill or capture them!

The best way to provide monkeys with food is to place the food at a so-called “feeding station”, as far from your house as possible, but not in a place where the concentrated presence of the monkeys becomes your neighbour’s problem. Place the food before you are expecting the monkeys to arrive, but not at the same time every day. This will ensure that the monkeys do not associate the food with you and do not come to expect the food to be there at any given time and so do not hang around waiting for it (No natural source of food is available every day, all day). If they do arrive and find no food, they move on as part of their natural foraging process. If they do find food, they eat, stay for a while and then they move on. Ideally there should be a number of “feeding stations” along the foraging routes in those areas where monkeys are considered an ongoing nuisance. This will encourage them to keep moving along the route and reduce their desire to enter adjacent homes for food.

The best food to put out for monkeys is soaked whole mealies, monkey nuts, sunflower seed, raisins, whole-wheat bread, fresh raw vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, baby marrow, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut, green beans, peas) pumpkin pips, fresh fruit (banana, apple, citrus, grapes).

Food put out for the monkeys should be placed directly on the ground or onto other natural features such as rocks, trees and logs. Food should not be put out in containers that will encourage monkeys to forage in similar containers in peoples’ homes.

Monkeys naturally forage for food over a large area, which reduces competition and confrontation between various members of the troop. There is a strict hierarchy within every troop which can be clearly seen during foraging, so any food put out for monkeys should be spread out over as wide an area as possible in your garden. When food is placed on one spot it is only the higher ranking monkeys who are able to utilize it. Lower ranking monkeys who are unable to get at the “feeding station” food become frustrated and will then look for food in the adjacent houses and gardens where their presence in not appreciated Use walls, banks and vegetation as “screens” which allow lower ranking monkeys to feed out of the sight of aggressive or higher ranking monkeys.

Very important:

For those people who are antagonistic to the presence of monkeys and the feeding of monkeys, please consider just how seriously urban, industrial and agricultural development has impacted on monkeys by destroying their natural habitat. A troop of monkeys is bonded to its territory through a matrilineal line spanning many generations. Female Vervets never leave the territory of their birth, which means that, with the exception of most of the mature adult males, the monkeys you see in the troop where you live descend from female monkeys who lived right there hundreds of years ago. Even though we have destroyed their habitat and their homes, they cannot leave. When the houses, factories, schools, shops, churches, roads, etc were constructed on land cleared of the natural vegetation that was home to the monkeys, they had to learn to survive in a “monkey unfriendly” world, and because they have done this with such success they are demonized, harassed, persecuted and killed. In order to survive they need to be able to find food, shelter and security. They desperately need our understanding and tolerance!

Article by Steve Smit - www.monkeyhelpline.co.za


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