This has proven to be one of Aviva Volunteer’s most popular projects. The Vervet Monkey Foundation (VMF) is a 23-hectare not-for-profit centre for the rehabilitation and sanctuary for vervet monkeys. They are a member of the Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance as well as The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and this foundation relies heavily on volunteer workers to assist in the day to day running and care duties of the foundation. Unlike other monkey sanctuaries, the Vervet Monkey Sanctuary do not allow tourists onto the property and therefore do not have streams of visitors parading around looking at the monkeys.
From September, the beginning of the baby season, injured adults and orphaned babies are brought to the Sanctuary by either the public or VMF are called out to pick up and assist the adult or baby and like any volunteer will tell you, this is where all the hard work begins.
The babies are traumatised after losing their mothers and they want comfort, which is normally found in the form of a woolly blanket against the chest of a carer. Then they need round the clock feeding, initially by a carer and then they are taught how to take milk from a bottle. These little critters are such a joy to behold, playful, showing off their tree climbing skills, jumping and tumbling around each other. You rarely find just one orphan – over the last month they have had over 12 orphaned monkeys and sadly, they tend to keep on coming. Some humans in the area have a low tolerance to these monkeys and cause either severe bodily injury or fatalities. Seriously, peeps, who could not love such a cute and gorgeous little creature?
Whilst carers and nurturing these little babies, other volunteers are out ensuring the different troops are fed, fresh water provided, fences are repaired and any other daily chore is accomplished. You may even get a chance to go on a call-out to collect and injured monkey or an orphan. When it is baby season, no two days are the same.
Human contact is limited as much as possible so it won’t be long before the process of introducing the orphans to possible foster mothers, begins.
When the babies first arrive they are all housed in the Disneyland enclosure and from there on, they are introduced to the various troops in various enclosures – Gizmo, Skrow, Royal, Robert, Engeltjie (Angel). If you would like to watch videos of these babies being released to meet up with potential foster mothers, I highly recommend going to the Facebook page of The Vervet Forest.
It is fascinating how quickly these babies bond with each other and latch onto a foster mother when the time is right. What an incredible feeling of accomplishment to have volunteered on such a project, knowing you have made a difference.
It is not all work though. As a volunteer, you have plenty of time to sightsee and explore this beautiful region of South Africa. But don’t visit for 2 weeks – that is far too short – volunteer for longer and explore the region, like Blyde River Canyon ….
And Bourke’s Drift Potholes and go swimming in rock pools and venture on forest hikes. Go zip lining or paragliding. River tube down the rivers when they are flowing fast after a good rain. Dave and Josie at the VMF are the loveliest people you could get to meet and they will help you with tips and ideas for sightseeing in the area.
After that is done and dusted, why not consider coming to Cape Town to spend a week at the AVIVA Volunteer house in Table View. Your volunteering experience is not over until you end with the Cape Town experience before heading home.
In 2016, the best is yet to come ….. the best adventure of your life, the best volunteering experience, the best opportunity to discover your potential!