I sometimes find myself panicking slightly in Squirrels when it's a nice day and there are hundreds of visitors, the monkeys are all out and Bounty is throwing his weight around like a steroid junkie. I have first hand experience of how nasty minkies can be, I have scars!! SCARS!! So when silly people are wandering around poking their hands and cameras directly into the face of our testosterone-fuelled alpha-male, something inside me snaps.
For those of you who may never have come across a Vervet monkey, they are intriguing little creatures. They're quite closely related to baboons, but smaller. They do, however, possess the characteristic canines...nasty weapons. They're a light grey colour, with dark detail around their faces. One of the most striking things about them is their bright blue bellies, and for the boys, bright blue balls. I have no idea what evolutionary function this could possibly serve....but they have it! When vervets are angry with you they raise their eyebrows to stretch the skin across their forehead so you get this flash if evil eyes and white eyelids...it's a bit freaky and I lost count of the times I broke off eye contact and put my hand in front of a baby monkeys face to distract it!
The Foundation was a very cool place to work, we lived in 'Tent Village' where there was no electricity and half the tent doors were done up with velcro to stop the nasties getting in, the zips had broken along time ago. One night I must have failed in my anxious fumblings to hermetically seal my tent, as I woke up with a rather large Wolfie laying next to me. There was no need to panic, Wolfie was just a rather large and over-excitable dog. Though he was a horny little bastard, one can only wonder what he'd been up to before I awoke *suspicious*. Showers were 1 per day, and cold. We had no water supply, so once or twice a day, some guys from the Foundation had to drive down to a local farm and fill a massive tank with water for our daily showers.
Bekkie - :D She was lovely and gentle. She'd stuff her face like a pig, and one day I realised why. The more dominant individuals would grab her head and pull it back, then fish out anything she had stored in her cheek pouches! Rudeness!
- Being out in the main enclosure when a dust storm whipped through and all of a sudden I had 11 baby's sitting on my lap staring at me in abject terror.
- Zorro (slightly mad adolescent vervet) sticking an ice cream tub on his head and running around the chicken wire making a hell of a racket, just to grab my attention and make me laugh.
- Being in with the uber-babies and noticing a funny sensation around my feet. I looked down to find one of them contentedly sucking on my toe. It was the cleanest it had been in a couple of weeks.
- Katie (my tent-mate) and I pissing ourselves laughing after she'd sent the dogs in to join me on the Eco-Toilet. It was pitch dark and I heard some strange scuffling sounds coming from the corner, I switched my torch on to find 4 dogs sitting round me in a semicircle whist I was squatted on this damn toilet with my knees around my ears.
- Bekkie falling asleep on my lap and sleepily rubbing her eyes when she woke up..then getting hiccups from drinking her milk too fast.
- Being in Goliath when Vic walked past, he was a big guy, and the babies didn't like men for some reason. He shouted 'BOO!!' through the bars, and 2 babies simultaneously shat down my shoulders. Worse...they'd been eating beetroot.
Now I've started thinking of them there are so many, I won't share them all, you'll be completely bored.
Suffice to say, my experience at the Foundation was an amazing one, it was my first real time away from home completely by myself, I met some incredible people, including Arthur Hunt, one of the founders, a true eccentric, and the monkeys, despite being vicious little toe-rags, were fabulous. I'd like to go back one day and see how the little fellas are doing.
If you want to know more about the foundation and how you can volunteer then check out the VMF website :)
RIP Arthur, no one wore a tie quite like you did, you're sorely missed xx