Around 3 months ago, a small box arrived to the door at The Colobus Trust. The box had come all the way from Tsavo National Park and made strange screeches and noises. We opened it, and inside we found a tiny, golden beige baby Vervet, around one month old, looking back at us. This was the stubborn infant that was soon going to wake us up during the nights, screaming for attention, mango and milk, in need of feeding every three hours. It had been found abandoned by its mother, playing with some children in Tsavo, so the journey all the way to the Trust had been long. After ensuring that he was not suffering from any illness, we prepared for him a cage with branches, fruits and a surrogate mother (a hot water bottle). During the days he played hide-and-seek with us, sometimes he could sit clinging to my stomach for hours while I was walking around the Trust working with other tasks. He was given all the love and attention he required, if not more – still, we were all watching him with a slight doubt in our eyes, knowing that he could not stay forever at the Trust. Where would he go, who would take care of him? We made a lot of effort trying to reach out to several Vervet Rehabilitation Centers, but no one seemed to have room for the Vervet infant.
Only a week later, another baby Vervet came in. This infant was even smaller than the first one – around two weeks old. He was found left alone just outside in the bush, also somehow abandoned by his mother, but this one seemed to be suffering a worse trauma. He was shocked and depressed, not interacting nor reacting to anything, but when left alone he would freak out and cry himself tired until anyone came back to hold him. Then we introduced him to our first baby Vervet, and it turned out to be a great solution. The two moved into the same cage and became friends, grooming, cuddling and sleeping in each other’s arms. Whenever there was a threat, the bigger one would take the smaller one in protection. It was so lovely to see, and it also meant that they could help each other through the hard times and give each other care and safety. They both grew more and more independent and explored their surroundings with a great sense of curiosity. However, we were still concerned about their future.
Just a few weeks later, a THIRD baby Vervet came in. This infant was between the age of the older and the younger, and very angel-like – it had been kept as a pet, and was finally handed over to the Trust a rainy February night. So now there were three small baby monkeys.
Luckily, we had a family just down the Diani Road who gave us the news that they were actually ready to adopt the baby monkeys during rehabilitation, before they were old enough and ready to be released back into the wild. We had found them a home! One day, they all moved into the house of Hillary, Isabella and Alex. The first time was not easy – the monkeys were a bit confused, jumping around hysterically, urinating on the furniture and eating every piece of food left outside. Hillary, Isabella and Alex had a hard time, especially with the smallest Vervet, who was still traumatized and a bit depressed. When I visited their new home only a week later, the monkeys were completely different. They were not aggressive at all, the smallest one was much happier and showed interest in its surroundings, exploring the environment and climbing the walls. They were eating with great appetite and showed a very healthy behaviour. Instead of moving them into a big rehabilitation enclose in the backyard of the house, as was the plan, they seemed to have made the house veranda their playground. They would sometimes leave the house to go exploring, but always returned again.
As for now, the monkeys are doing great on their favourite veranda. There are still many challenges that they need to face every day, some of them more difficult than others, but they are doing fine and growing more and more independent. One of the baby Vervets, though, just had a horrible experience while playing in the garden, and is currently treated for this little adventure. To be continued…
Anna Sandahl, Colobologist