Durban – Polite monkeys know their boundaries in the Midlands garden of a monkey whisperer.
Belinda Skea said she had raised two troops of monkeys, at two different properties, to know it is not good manners to steal or destroy things special to her, like the staghorns in her garden.
Or the food they were eyeing on a children’s birthday party table for half an hour before guests arrived.
They also allow her chickens and rabbits, which they could easily rip apart, to roam around unthreatened.
How so? By spending time among them and talking to them, she told the Independent on Saturday.
“You can get them to respect you, get them to behave better because by dialogue you can become one of the pack. I earned their trust by being in their presence. It’s easier when you make peace with them. There is less confrontation.”
Skea, who works as a skin rejuvenation and restoration specialist from her home in Hilton, said she used a feather duster to warn them off when necessary and, in doing so, lay down boundaries.
“They think it’s a bird of prey.”
Skea has trained her Jack Russell dogs as well as her cat not to chase monkeys, but adds that the cat is a “work in progress”.
She encourages them to come inside when the troop is near the house.
“If you have an attitude of hating monkeys, the dog will pick that up.”
This is for the pets’ sakes too.
“If a dog goes for a pregnant female, the whole troop will turn on it.”
Skea said she knew the monkeys had accepted her when they would visit her back door to show her their new offspring. And through their toilet habits.
They never messed on her vehicle until she moved house.
However, when the Skeas moved house, they messed on her vehicle.
“It was to say – you cow, you’re leaving us.”
Leaving that house, also in Hilton – and that troop – was heart-breaking for Skea. She only managed to cut loose from it after the disappearance of Rosie, a young female that would steal others’ babies to display to her at the door.
She was last seen in heavy pregnancy. Skea believes she may have died from childbirth complications, been killed by a dog or been shot.
“She would have been a good mother.”
Skea said she learned how every member of a troop plays a role.
“There is no such thing as killing the right monkey. They all have a role to play. Killing one can upset the balance. It could be the one that keeps order in the troop.”
The chaos that follows could mean an increase in monkey problems for people too.
She said that presently mothers were looking after their new born offspring and, as they make their way through hedges and avoid barking dogs, can no longer offer attention to the one- and two-year-olds.
“The four- and five-year-old males become their babysitters. But the younger ones scream a lot. They’re angry with the mothers.”
Skea acknowledges that monkeys are opportunistic by nature, so she advises enclosing vegetable gardens and not keeping food out.
“They can’t read your title deeds. You have to learn to get on with them and they will be less destructive,” she said.
The Independent on Saturday