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Orphaned monkey rescued from street entertainers gets a second chance

Posted by: Kelly Martin, Colobus Conservation Ltd., a Woodland Park Zoo Wildlife Survival Fund project

Editor’s note: When an animal needs help, you can rely on our conservation partners to step up. Colobus Conservation Ltd., a Woodland Park Zoo Wildlife Survival Fund project based in Kenya, may have started with a focus on saving colobus monkeys, but their mission now impacts wildlife and communities well beyond that scope. This is one of those stories.

Mel the vervet monkey. Photo courtesy Lydia Katsis, Colobus Conservation researcher

Mel, a young female vervet monkey, arrived at Colobus Conservation a few weeks ago after being rescued from street entertainers trying to sell her to tourists passing by. Colobus Conservation was called to the scene by a concerned individual after witnessing little Mel tied up, alone and on the ground. She was being handed around for people to see. The asking price for her started at $10.

Team Colobus moved fast. As so often happens, on our arrival the individuals left the scene quickly, knowing that what they were doing is illegal. We arrived in time and were able to rescue little Mel before she was sold. She was strong and tried to bite us and wiggle away, not knowing what was happening to her. We wrapped her in a towel and drove back to the center. As soon as the engine started, little Mel fell fast asleep, indicating how truly exhausted she must have been from her ordeal.

On arrival at the center, Mel was checked by the vet. She was dehydrated and covered in dirt, but her condition was not so bad.

Little Mel was found tied up to a bag on the street. She was alone and being passed around for people to see. Photo courtesy Colobus Conservation

For the rest of the day and the first night, Mel cried for her mother. She then would sleep, eat and cry some more. We did all we could to comfort her, but we knew we would never be able to give her what she really needed, her mother. The next day we introduced her to another young female vervet monkey, Mali. Within the hour both had bonded and little Mel’s crying stopped almost immediately. Finally she was with a fellow monkey. Now, weeks later, they are inseparable, sleeping, eating and playing together, which fills the hearts of all the colobus team.

Mel will now have to spend at least 2 years under human care, where she will learn to be a monkey again, figuring out how to use her environment and what foods to eat, and how to socialize with other monkeys. Once ready and fully integrated, she will be released back into the wild.

Both infant vervet monkeys, Mali and Mel, were orphaned after losing their mothers to human/wildlife conflict. Both will need to be rehabilitated and will eventually be released back into the wild. Photo courtesy Lydia Katsis, Colobus Conservation researcher

We were able to save little Mel from the illegal pet trade. However, not all monkeys get a second chance. Many will be sold as pets, or used as a photo prop or passed around for tourists to stroke and touch. Many were probably torn away from their mothers who were likely killed. Colobus Conservation believes by creating awareness in communities, and through education, we can stop this being the fate of many animals. We work with the local community, school children and tourists to create awareness of why monkeys and other wild animals are not pets, and reinforce the importance of the local wildlife.

Without funding from places such as Woodland Park Zoo, our work would not be possible. We thank you for supporting us through the zoo and helping us save such monkeys as little Mel! Vote for Wildlife Survival Fund projects through the zoo's Quarters for Conservation kiosks on your next visit to continue to support projects like this.


Anonymous said…
This article is both sad and happy. So glad the little Mel was rescued with the chance of realize back to the wild. But sad that she was taken from her mom in the first place and the fate of other animals that this is done to.