After centuries of roving around South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria’s famed vervet monkeys have been forced out by rampant development, with some of the last relocated on Wednesday.
The fragile species, known for communication methods very similar to humans, face extinction and were further threatened when a new shopping centre cut their living area from 6ha to a quarter of a hectare.
Most of the last of two troops, totalling nearly 70 monkeys, were given a new lease of life when the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (RWRC) found them a new home on private land about 40km north-east of Pretoria, on what is to be the Dikoneng Big Five Nature Reserve.
“These animals have been in Pretoria for centuries,” said RWRC primatologist Bob Venter, adding that the city’s Apies (Monkeys) River was named for the vervets that traversed the area.
Only 13 have managed to evade capture by conservationists.
“It is the last of a specific animal that does seed distribution. Not only are we losing a monkey but we are losing the biggest ecologist on the planet. This will lead to a decline in bird life, micro fauna and small insects,” said Venter.
The small primates used to occur across Africa up to Ethiopia, and numbers have drastically declined in North Africa where birth rate has reached 0,3%.
Despite several attempts at a census, primatologists have established only a notable drop in numbers but are unable to say how many are left in South Africa.
Venter said the monkey was classified as vermin in South Africa after biting the daughter of the country’s finance minister in 1937, and was listed as a threatened species in 1976 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
“South Africa is a signatory to that convention, but people still kill them. Old ways die hard.”—Sapa-AFP