Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I thought today I'd tell about a vervet monkey who lives here. Her name is Audrey. First of all, a few words on vervets: They're small and silvery-gray monkeys with a long tails and a black faces. (Males have blue private parts!) They climb like nobody's business and can sometimes be very aggressive (to make up for their size, I assume). Their teeth are like razors, and they love to bite ears, and the way they do it makes me suspect they're testing the humans to see if they can make them scream.

They can also be very naughty. When they escape their enclosure--running between your legs as you try to get out the gate--they are almost impossible to catch. Volunteers run around for hours, calling up to the branches, "Here, Etosha! Come come come!" When they get caught it's usually because someone snags their long tails.

Audrey is different, though. She was someone's pet, but the guy always kept her in a dark room--probably a basement. Then one day he decided to bring her into a sunny room without giving her eyes a chance to adjust. She went blind. Her eyes look sort of smokey blue--almost cataract-like.

So Audrey ended up here, safe in her own enclosure where she knows her way around. She can still bite like hell, but if she knows you--your voice, smell, and the fact that you're packing peanuts in your pockets--she'll respond positively.

So I visit Audrey quite often with the requisite peanuts. I call out her name and she will feel her way down a branch to meet me and take her bribe, so while she's eating I can pet her soft fur and hold her small human-ish hands.

A volunteer was around the last time I did it, so I had her film it. Watch how Audrey feels the peanut, smells it, and turns it around in her hands to orient herself to it.

Lots of different animals end up here--categories include injured, orphaned, former pets (like Audrey), and born on Harnas. The pets, I think, are saddest of all because people can be so unthinking. Sure--baby animals are really cute and cuddly, but what happens when they grow up and turn into the wild animals they're supposed to be--strong, aggressive, and needing lots of space and the companionship of their own species? They end up here--if they're lucky. If they're not, they end up being abandoned somewhere without the ability to hunt for their own food, or being put down by a vet.

Audrey was one of the lucky ones.

1 comment:

  1. Again, I just can't stress enough how COOL this adventure of yours is! And how jealous I am of you! How long are you staying at Harnas?