October: Orphans, Amputations, and Kittens!
October at the VMF was an eventful month, though for myself it was busy mostly with surgeries as we had Sue, a vet from the UK, come for 2 weeks to do vasectomies on some of our monkeys. It also had us dealing with Opal’s mysterious paralysis, and the arrivals of Francis, a 1 year old ex-pet, and new baby orphan Spiegel.
For a couple weeks of October my life revolved entirely around the vasectomies. I woke up and started setting up the surgery room, sedated the patient, gave painkiller and antibiotic injections, TB tested, placed an IV, scrubbed the surgical site, and then monitored each patient during surgery. We did up to 3 surgeries a day, which was trying for the guys who were out trying to trap monkeys as fast as we finished. Once the surgeries wrapped up, I cleaned the surgery room, scrubbed the surgical instruments and sterilized them, set up for the next day, and arranged for the next day’s patients to be cleared out all while overseeing the recoveries of our patients. It was a busy time, and we didn’t manage to catch 2 of the monkeys we wanted to get, but overall was a success and a nice change of pace for me to help with surgeries for the first time in nearly 9 months.
A short time before our vet arrived we also had a scary experience with Opal, an adult male from Skrow troop. Opal is a lovely boy, he has a small light coloured lump under his eye that looks like a teardrop, hence his name is Opal. He is unfortunately relatively low ranked within the troop, so he tends to hang out along the back fenceline attached to my yard.
One morning as I was doing monitoring, I was walking past Skrow to monitor Robert troop, and said hi to him as he walked past. Not 20 minutes later when I was up in top section I heard on the radio that our worker Sammie had spotted a seriously ill monkey in Skrow troop. Dave and Josie got there and radioed that Opal could not walk and was dragging his hind legs. He looked in such a serious state that we had to do something we avoid at all costs, which was to have Sammie go in and catch him with a net. We avoid this because the added stress of being approached by a human and caught in a net can actually kill them with stress, so we save it for drastic circumstances where we have no option, such as when Seb’s lung was poking out after the Engeltjie boys tried to kill him.
Sammie brought him in to sickbay and placed him in a crush cage so we could assess him. We poked and prodded and pinched and decided he could not feel his toes, but could feel his upper thighs to an extent and most of his tail. Dave got on the phone with the local vets, who were of no use to us and advised us to have him put to sleep (locals are not fans of the vervets). Potential causes we came up with at the time were a broken spine due to a fall, tetanus, blood clot, or a bite from something poisonous.
Tetanus is a serious problem with primate sanctuaries in South Africa, as it is a toxin that can live in the earth and enter the body through cuts on hands and feet. The baboon sanctuary near here has ongoing problems with it and vaccinates all their animals against it. Dave says he hasn’t seen tetanus here at the VMF in years, but the symptoms Opal showed put that as a reasonable diagnosis. Dave and Josie could not get a hold of the tetanus anti-toxin injection, as it was out in every pharmacy and would have taken over a week to come in, so we started him on a homeopathic treatment plan for tetanus as used by Arthur in the past and amended by Josie with her background in natural medicine. This meant that every day we gave him a light sedation in order to give him an IV and an injection of ascorbic acid, and also gave us a chance to clean his foot and apply creams as his one foot was getting better but the other was becoming swollen and full of edema. He also received daily injections of vitamin B to help with any potential nerve damage. As days went on it became clear that whatever caused the paralysis originated in his foot. The foot became hard on top, and as the swelling went down in his leg his toes became necrotic. When the vet arrived she confirmed our views that he did not have tetanus but was most likely caused due to a bite from a poisonous spider or scorpion, something that he would not have noticed until he stepped on it.
The necrosis in his toes continued, and we were worried that he may need his entire foot amputated, but in the end Sue manage to save his foot, and only removed his inner 3 toes which had the most damage. His hind foot now looks like a bit of a lobster claw, but we are hoping that having saved the bulk of his foot he will still be able to climb and therefore have the opportunity to continue living a mostly normal life in the troop. We’ve been monitoring his movements in his big cage in sickbay, and though he looks a bit awkward he climbs the branches reasonably well, so the plan is to trap him tomorrow and put him in an intro cage so we can monitor how the troop reacts to him before he try releasing him back into the enclosure.
A few days after vasectomies ended we had some minor drama at the foundation, when Manon and Elise, 2 French volunteers, came back from town carrying a kitten they had saved as it was being kicked by a group of people. Lily handed it to me so I could make sure it was okay (being the vet nurse of course I was going to check the little one was not injured). Turns out the little boy had a few cuts and was crosseyed, but seemed the major problem with him was dehydration, so I set the girls up with him outside with a bowl of water and some cat food they bought for him in town. Once he was settled Dave came over and told us anyone who touched the kitten was on quarantine and could not work with or near monkeys for 48 hours. That took Lily and I and about 5 volunteers off the rota for 2 days which was a bit awkward, but nothing I wouldn’t do again if someone hands me an injured animal.The little one was then taken to the local SPCA which took him to the vet to be taken care of.
October also meant to arrival of Francis, a one year old ex-pet. Francis is a special monkey, as a result of being kept indoors, she has an unnaturally pink pink due to lack of pigmentation from the sun, and has developed the coping mechanism of sucking her thumb while curling up and propping her back leg up behind her ear and rocking slightly. It really is heartbreaking to watch and makes you wonder why anyone could do this to an animal and possibly think it okay. Just one more reason why wild animals are not for pets!!! Francis belonged in the trees with her mom and troop, not rocking back and forth in someone’s house deprived of sun and companionship. Luckily for Francis though, we have a perfect troop for her, full of 2-3 year old orphans for her to bond with and she is getting on with them quite well. Hopefully in less than a month or two we will be able to see her running around Dino & Daniel enclosure with the rest of the kids.
Shortly after Francis came Speigel, our first orphan of the 2011/2012 baby season. Speigel’s mum was hit by a car but luckily he survived and was picked up by Dave and Josie. Speigel was named by our UK events coordinators Sarah-Jane and Nick, and apparently means ‘mirror’ in German, though really it just confuses me as we have a Shmegal in Goliath, who is a bit of an aggressive nutcase, so now every time I say Speigel I thing of Shmegal, and have resorted to referring to Speigel as ‘little man’ to avoid confusion in my own mind. So our little man has the perfect foster mum picked out for him, Chico from our sickbay troop. Chico is an adorable girl, not much to look at as she is thin and scruffy with an unfortunate scar over her eyebrow but was an ex-pet herself and is quite a nice monkey. Melanie has been taking Speigel into the intro cage with Chico to get them bonded, and Chico is absolutely in love with him, constantly hugging and alternating between grooming him and grooming Melanie. It really is such an amazing thing to watch and will be even better once Speigel has learned to use the feeding station and ca go in to live with Chico full time. It is always best to give the babies foster mums so they can learn to behave like real monkeys, unlike our silly little brats from last year (We all love them but there is no arguing that they are way too over-humanized for their own good). Hopefully we will have updates soon that Speigel and his new mum are living together peacefully.
Other events of the past month were Colin, a female ex-pet from a SAAV intro cage moving to a different SAAV intro cage to live with Murray. Things are a bit tense in there at the moment, but we are hoping they can learn to live together as it would be great for them both to have company.
Armstrong from Skunkey section had been picking on his roommate Thandi a bit too much so was moved to another Skunkey cage to live with females Angela and Pepper. So far so good on that front.
Bentley, Nwansuti, and Keenan, who lived in the cage attached to mainfeed by themselves have finally moved to a new cage attached to Engeltjie to reacquaint themselves with their old neighbours after about 2 years away from them. They are a bit confused about the change of location, but hopefully will start rebuilding bonds with the troop members.
Nigella, who was given Baromir as a roommate a couple months ago has had 3 serious bites recently, and as no one has seen whether they were from Baromir or from the girls in the troop she is attached to we are taking Baromir out again to see if he was the cause of the problems.
The boys from Special cases, Titan, Twitch, Ricky, and Scallywag, moved up in the world and out of the old Special Cases block into nice new intro cages up by Goliath troop. They seem to be enjoying themselves up there, other than a small relapse in Titan’s sickness but he seems all fine now.
Gismo enclosure expansion meant that Cane, Abel, Brownie, Uh-Oh, and Tom-Tom could all be re-integrated into the troop after a long absence in Quarantine. They can all now be seen wandering through the nice mango trees in the new section of the enclosure.
Rainy season has started here which means that the world is turning green again, and the signs of the fires are slowly disappearing. Camelot is springing back to life and the troop looks great, thanks to everyone’s contributions.