Monday, September 28, 2009

My visit to a traditional healer in Africa: "Call on your female ancestors"

All text and photos by Sally Kneidel, PhD, of

Caiphus - a medicine man I consulted with in the African village of Welverdiend. This photo is with his little daughter, Queen, in front of his home in June 2009.

The village of Welverdiend, South Africa, is one of my favorite places in the world. I've never met a more positive, forward-thinking group of people, determined to bring about progressive change. In the two and a half years since I've known them, they've faced some daunting challenges, such as unemployment and vanishing natural resources, but have come up with solutions I would never have dreamed of. Ken and I were stunned when we learned what they've accomplished.

Ken and I first visited Welverdiend in 2007, at the advice of Dr. Laurence Kruger who directs an ecology program in Kruger National Park, and Dr. Wayne Twine who studies resource use by villages just outside of Kruger Park. Welverdiend is one of the villages Twine studies. During our first visit, I was enthralled by the conversations we had in Welverdiend - how willing the villagers were to talk frankly about their difficulties with diminishing fuel wood, diminishing river sand for bricks (due to drought), damage to crops and livestock by elephants and lions, etc. For people like myself who are curious about lives that are different from our own, Welverdiend is a hot spot of interest. If you visit, you'll come away inspired and enlightened. Or at least I did. Click here and here to see my stories and pictures from our first visit in 2007. Click here for the pics and story of our June 2009 visit. What a wonderful group of people!

But what I really wanted to write about today was one of the most interesting parts of the visit, both years. That was visiting the sangoma, or medicine man. I know that consumer demand for traditional Chinese and Asian medicines is a major threat to the survival of tigers, bears, rhinos and dozens or probably hundreds of other species. Traditional African and Latin American medicine also involve the use of animal parts, to some degree. I don't know whether the use of animal parts by sangomas in Africa is contributing to the demise of threatened species, but it can't be helping. For that reason, I didn't accept any medicines on my first visit, and during my second visit I accepted only a couple of plant-based powders.

Welverdiend has more than one sangoma; I think two of them are women. I had no preference, and my friend Clifford made an appt for me to see the sangoma Caiphus. In 2007 Clifford and friend Robert went with me to translate, and Ken my husband went too.

Ken, Clifford, and Robert (l to r) with me in Caiphus' consulting room, 2007

The 2007 visit was really more of an interview than a doctor's appointment, but Caiphus did "throw the bones for me," a diagnostic practice. He told me that there was nothing wrong with me, but he offered me a drink from a jar of fluid with some unidentified stuff floating in it, just in case. I declined politely and we all laughed. Then Caiphus said Ken was sick. (He was.) He recommended that Ken keep taking the medicine he'd brought with him from the States.

Caiphus in his "office" as a medicine man, with some of his tools in 2007

On my second visit, in 2009, I went to see Caiphus as a patient or client. I took only my friend from Welverdiend, Clifford, to act as translator. Caiphus greeted us in front of his house with little Queen. We chatted a while then I told Caiphus that there was a situation in my life that was causing me distress, and I wanted his diagnosis and advice, although I didn't want to be prescribed any medicines made of animal products. (Sangomas treat non-medical problems too, such as mine.)

So we went into his front room, where he keeps his diagnostic tools and his remedies.

My friend Clifford and Caiphus, 2009

The walls in Caiphus' room are lined with his collection of medicines (2 pics below)

Most of his medicines looked like teas, or powders, or crumbled dried plants. We sat down on animal skins he had on the floor, Queen at her daddy's knee. I asked what kind of skins they were; Caiphus said duiker and impala (local species of antelope) and jackal. Impala are abundant in the park, duiker are common. I know jackals are heavily persecuted by farmers who complain about jackals killing poultry, etc. I didn't ask him where he got the skins (below).

He had a dried elephant foot that he said is used for people who come to him with foot ailments (visible as the gray blob on the white plate in the second picture of his bottles and jars). I know that Kruger Park staff at times shoot elephants who are destroying crop fields or causing persistent problems and give the meat to villagers. This is probably how he got the foot. Caiphus also had a wildebeest tail that he said is used to cleanse patients who have been "bewitched by evil spirits." He said a lot of the "medicine" that works with the wildebeest tail is actually stuffed into the handle affixed to the tail.

The wildebeest tail with handle

He demonstrated how it works by holding the handle and sweeping Clifford with the wildebeest tail. We all laughed. We spent a lot of time laughing. Caiphus is friendly and funny, and he put me quite at ease.

Anyway, I described my problem to Caiphus, a problem which involved a situation with another person that was causing me some angst. To come up with the treatment for my distress, Caiphus collected his small bones, shook them vigorously, spoke to the bones in Shangaan, and then threw them down on one of the animal skins. He spent some time studying them and pointing out their meaning to us with his stick, as Queen began to nod off.

Below, a closer view of his bones (which include a domino, a few coins, a sea shell)

I asked Caiphus what the bones were, and he said they were the knees of sheep, goat, impala, duiker, warthog, lion, leopard, tortoise, and marula. Marula is a plant, so I don't know what that meant. Queen at this point put her head on her dad's knee, asleep (below).

I wish I'd asked him how he acquired the knees of these animals, but I didn't. Why didn't I? I was dismayed to hear lion and leopard in the list, though. I can only hope that the animals weren't killed for the sake of procuring their knee bones for the sangoma. I know that villages living around the park sometimes kill predators who are killing their livestock. I'm guessing this is how he got the leopard and lion knees, or maybe he bought them. As I was ruminating over this, Caiphus reached behind himself, pulled out a cloth, folded it carefully, and tenderly placed it under Queen's head.

Queen snoozes on the little pillow her dad made

Anyway, here's what he said the bones told him about me: I need to appeal to my female ancestors to intercede in my behalf. He also said something of value is coming my way. In order to properly ask my female ancestors to influence my affairs, I need to get a white cloth and a checked cloth, put a 100-rand bill (South African money) between the two cloths and sprinkle some brown powder over the cloths. Then I need to ask my female ancestors to clear the way for this thing of value to come to me, whatever it is. The brown powder was a ground-up tree root, he said.

Secondly, I needed to put brown powder #2 (a different kind of tree root) into a bath tub of water. Then I needed to speak outloud to my female ancestors about the solution I would like to happen regarding the situation at home that's bothering me. Next, I should put some of the yellow powder in a glass of water, sit down in the bath water, and drink the glass with the yellow powder in it.

He put the brown powder for the cloths in a used snuff can and gave it to me. He deftly wrapped the two powders for the bath procedure into separate packets make entirely of newspaper.

The packets of ground tree roots, and the brown tree root in the snuff can

We talked for a couple more minutes, then Clifford and I jumped up. We were going to take a ride through the Mozambique neighborhood of Welverdiend. The Mozambique population moved into the area as refugees from political turmoil in Mozambique, and they are not as far along the road to Westernization as the Shangaan Welverdiend residents. For example, I believe he said they have no running water, and their schools have fewer supplies, etc.

On our way out, Caiphus showed us some medicinal herbs he was drying in the sun

Then Clifford and I were off for our visit to the Mozambique area.

Children on the Mozambique side of town, walking home from school.

Would I recommend to anyone else to consult with a sangoma about a problem? If you have a latent anthropologist in yourself, like I do, then by all means Yes! Other ways of life fascinate me. About the matter of their using animal skins and animal bones (the wildebeest tail and elephant foot) - tell them that American tourists (or whatever nationality you are) don't like the idea of using animal parts from animals that might be declining in number. I should have encouraged Caiphus to use only the bones of domestic animals or truly abundant animals, like scrub hares or impala.

I like Caiphus a lot; it's impossible not to like him. I like him for being such a kind father to his little girl, for laughing so readily, for providing a good home for his family in a lovely town like Welverdiend, for suggesting that I call on my female ancestors who have power. I like that last idea. I like it a lot. Even though most of the people of Welverdiend will tell you that they are Christian, they blend the old with the new. I understand that their church services are quite an experience. I could hear them from a distance when I was there on a Sunday, but didn't get a chance to attend. Next time I'm there, I will.

Check out on their website what Welverdiend is doing to prepare for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The village's new resort will be ready to house and feed dozens of athletes from all over the world, with an Olympic-sized pool for exercising. By June of 2010, Welverdiend will also have a wildlife preserve with safari vehicles. It makes me want to cry. If you could see how much they've changed since 2007... These are people who have amazing drive and spirit. I just want to be around them. I want to be

Key words:: sangoma Africa traditional healer medicine man traditional medicine declining resources natural resources South Africa Welverdiend Caiphus throwing the bones throw the bones Kruger National Park Kruger Park Laurence Kruger

All text and photos by Sally Kneidel, PhD, of

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Plush Toilet Paper Flushes Old Forests

This post now on Fox Business and Google News.
Photos and text by Sally Kneidel, PhD

Pictured above, one of dozens of logging trucks I saw in Washington State, carrying what the locals called little "pecker poles" - because the available mature trees are gone.

American's insistence on soft thick toilet paper is an unnecessary threat to the world's old-growth forests, says a report published Thursday in the Washington Post.

What exactly constitutes a luxury toilet paper and why is it so costly to the environment?

A sheet of toilet paper (made of wood fibers) can be rated on 3 aspects of softness:
  • surface smoothness
  • bulky feel
  • "drapability" or lack of rigidity
As it turns out, very old trees have longer wood fibers which make a product higher in the 3 desirable qualities above.

Fibers from younger trees make a paper that feels somewhat rougher than the most luxurious brands like Cottonelle and Quilted Northern Ultra Plush.

But is it really that different? Not to me. My family buys either Seventh Generation toilet paper or Green Forest brand from Planet Inc., both of which are made entirely from recycled paper. I have a roll of Green Forest right here and it feels very soft to me. I can't imagine that any increase in softness would make a difference in comfort. Marcal Manufacturing, in New Jersey, makes toilet paper from recycled paper too, although I haven't seen it in stores around my town.

Pine plantations likened to a row of Walmart stores
Old-growth forests, and all native forests, are already in a world of trouble from the timber industry. International timber companies are going after every unprotected and accessible forest on the planet. In the southern United States, where I live, more than 32 million acres of mature forest have been clear-cut and replaced with sterile monoculture plantations of loblolly pine. These pine plantations (not native to the areas where they're planted) are devoid of animal life. They are managed chemically with pesticides, and competing undergrowth is generally removed, so that the insect life and spacial heterogeneity necessary to support an ecosystem are entirely missing. E.O. Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard ecologist, called pine plantations the ecological equivalent of a line of Walmart Stores. The U.S. Forest Service projects that by the year 2040, pine plantations will occupy 54-58 million acres of southern forests, almost a third of the south's total 200 million forested acres.

We all know what the timber industry has done to the Pacific Northwest
When I visited the Olympic peninsula of Washington State just a couple of years ago, I passed more loaded timber trucks than I did cars. A local told me that the trucks were all headed to the harbors of Seattle, where the timber will be shipped overseas.

Southeast Asia has hardly any remaining stands of old-growth forest left, which is one reason that the orangutan is seriously endangered. It has almost no remaining habitat.

In African rainforest, and in the Amazon, international timber and paper companies have created access roads into the most impenetrable forests - roads that provice access to those who would harvest the wildlife, access for settlers who will slash and burn forest trees to make cattle pastures. The roads also provide egress for previously sequestered pathogens, such as the Ebola virus and perhaps HIV.

True, toilet paper accounts for only 5% of the world's forest-products industry. Paper and cardboard packaging make up 26%, although more than half is from recycled products. Newspapers account for 3%.

Half the world uses no toilet paper
But 5% is far higher than it needs to be. In Africa, most bathrooms have no toilet paper. You might find a newspaper or a magazine you can tear lying in the outhouse....or you may find nothing. In Latin America, the toilet paper is thin yet adequate. But it must be thrown in the trash can; Latin American plumbing can't handle it. Why do Americans have to have everything deluxe? The rest of world is growing tired of our overconsumption. A growing number of Americans are getting impatient with it too.

Ask your grocer to stock Seventh Generation, which makes a variety of sustainable products.

For more information on the timber industry, check out the Dogwood Alliance website. It's a great nonprofit whose sole mission is to educate and lobby on behalf of sustainable forestry practices. They have a wealth of information on various campaigns to protect forests and stop destructive corporations.

Or read our last book, Going Green: A Wise Consumer's Guide to a Shrinking Planet. We have a whole section on how to find and choose sustainably made paper and wood products.

Help protect our forests and wildlife habitat! Skip the ridiculous ultra plush and ask your grocer to stop carrying it.

Key words:: plush toilet paper industry timber industry forest products Dogwood Alliance Washington Post ebola virus southern forests clear cuttting pine plantations E.O. Wilson Going Green Sally Kneidel Sadie Kneidel wildlife harvesting forestry roads old growth forests

David Fahrenthold. Environmentalists Seek to Wipe Out Plush Toilet Paper. Washington Post. September 24, 2009

Dogwood Alliance, in particular Scot Quaranda of the Dogwood Alliance

Sally Kneidel, PhD, and Sadie Kneidel. Going Green: A Wise Consumer's Guide to a Shrinking Planet. 2008. Fulcrum Publishing

See my previous post about the timber industry and the illegal trade in wildlife.

Scot Quaranda of the Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable forestry practices

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Green Tip: Annex the Outdoors and Save Energy & Materials

All text and photos by Sally Kneidel at

I visited my dear friends Kathleen Jardine and Jim Cameron again last weekend. They have the coolest home I've ever seen. It's a true passive-solar design and has solar thermal panels on its durable steel roof, but it looks like a French country cottage!

I arrived at the home's lovely east end (above) which has vines growing on trellises. The vines help the wide overhangs to block sun from the windows in summer, keeping the interior cool.

As I paused in the yard, I saw flowerbeds...everywhere I turned (above and below)

Then I walked in and saw in the entry-way the little Buddha statue and the Japanese-style shoe rack, and I felt a little rush of pleasure. Everything in this home seems intentional, aesthetic, and practical, all rolled into one - unlike my own home, awash with clutter. I took my shoes off and put them on the rack (optional), then walked barefoot on the lovely scored and red-tinted concrete floor that gives the home such a warm feel. The floor is also a perfect thermal mass for the passive solar design.

I turned the corner into the living room, hollering yoo-hoo for Kathleen, and saw the enticing garden through the south-facing windows (below).

The house is so pretty, it's just a pleasure to immerse myself in it. Kathleen's luscious paintings line the walls opposite the windows, and I admired them all the way to the dining room, with its vine-draped French doors (below).

Their house is not only the most beautiful home I know of, it's also probably the greenest in terms of energy-efficiency and durability. Kathleen and Jim design and build passive-solar homes, and sell passive-solar house plans. Check out their website at

Kathleen and Jim are both artists - I met them in college when Jim was throwing pots, majoring in art, and Kathleen was already painting, drawing, and stitching and who knows what. They're both bold people of action, proven fully capable of turning dreams and principles into reality, and making a livelihood of it. That's something I really admire. It's not easy to convert ideals to income. As a writer, I've struggled with that for many years...

Anyway, back to my Green Tip. Here it is, something I learned from Kathleen and Jim, who are featured in my last book (Going Green). The tip is "annex the outdoors." That wouldn't have made any sense to me before I met them, but it makes so much sense now. Annexing the outdoors means building your home in such a way that the outdoors feels like part of the home: traffic in and out of doors is easy, and your outdoor space is a desirable place to be.

As lovely as Kathleen and Jim's home is, their outdoor space rivals it. Soon after I arrive for any visit, we almost always go outside to sit by their burbling goldfish pond and catch up on all our news. If Jim is home, all three of us go. If it's evening, we may have a glass of wine and some snacks, or even dinner on the table by the pond.

The flowers by the fish pond (above and below).

The table between the fish pond and the bird feeders, where we have our refreshments (below). Isn't it inviting?

The benefit to counting the outdoors as living space is that you have much more square footage of living space, without the expense of enclosing and heating it! You save on materials, you save on energy-bills, you help the planet by using less power and fewer materials. Plus you have the tremendous psychological benefit of spending more wholesome time outdoors under the open sky.

To make full use of your outdoor area, here are a couple or three guidelines:
1) Walking out the door should be effortless, which means that the floor should be level or almost level with the ground so that no steps are needed. A lack of steps also means no wear and tear on the knees, one of the first body parts to show wear as people age. Kathleen and Jim's houses are supremely durable and low-maintenance, with low energy bills, so you can stay put forever if you like.

2) As Kathleen and Jim have done in their own home, consider putting a stove and a shower outdoors - roofed but without walls other than perhaps a shower curtain for privacy. Outdoors, the heat of cooking and showering doesn't heat up or steam up the house. Plus, it's really fun to cook outdoors, and to shower outdoors. Eating and cleaning up feel like an adventure!

3) Consider a regular dining area outdoors. It doesn't have to be on a patio or deck - Kathleen's and Jim's outdoor table and chairs just rest on the ground and they're fine.

After we got through eating during my recent visit, the vet had arrived to look at their horse's eye. So we went to greet the vet and watch what she was doing, which was entertaining.

In the photo below, yet another vine-draped lovely trellis covers the gate into the horse corral and barn area.

Callie the horse awaits the vet (below) on this misty evening.

While waiting, Callie eats her dinner (below). Kathleen's and Jim's barn is as immaculate as their house, and just as pretty, in its barn-like way.

Kathleen brings out Baboo the pony (a.k.a. Pootsnack) to join in the fun.

Pootsnack is wondering who I am (above).

The next morning, Sleety the accomplished Jack Russell terrier demonstrated one of her many talents in jumping on Kathleen's back and clinging like a book satchel!

I was impressed at Sleety's numerous feats of daring, but the backpack imitation was especially endearing.
And with that final adieu to the people and animals who live in this wonderland of loveliness, I hopped in my car and made my way to Chapel Hill, to eat lunch with my son. Btw, my son Alan concurs that Kathleen and Jim's home is the loveliest place he's ever seen, and the perfect abode in his own mind's eye.

Web sites to check out:

Key words:: energy-efficiency passive solar green homes sungarden houses sun garden houses using the outdoors for living space saving materials saving space

All text and photos by Sally Kneidel at

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Seeing the eyes of a monkey

Text and all photos by Sally Kneidel, PhD

A wild adult female vervet monkey in my friend's backyard in South Africa

Primates fascinate me. I love coming face to face with another animal who's so much like me - the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted desperately to see monkeys in Africa. It's easy to imagine that they have human feelings, because they do; in fact, mammals in general have emotions similar to our own. Their brains have the same structures as ours; the structures just differ in their relative size. Mammals can experience fear, longing, anger, curiosity, boredom, rivalry or jealousy, frustration, the urge to mate, the urge to nest and nurture their offspring, the fierce drive to protect their young from harm...

A vervet monkey showing fear or an appeasement "grin" at a monkey with a higher rank.
And for those primates and other mammals or birds who are social animals (living in social groups), they feel "pleasure" in the company of one another and in grooming each other. Chimpanzees even clean one another's teeth.

A social group of vervets (photo above) foraging for fruit together in my friend's backyard in South Africa

Africa is a good place to see primates, especially the great apes. South America is a good place too. The Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon has more primates than any other reserve in the world - at least 14, maybe 16 species. Several of them are marmosets or tamarins. Alas, I haven't been there. I haven't seen a profusion of primates on my few trips to Latin America, because I haven't been to the best places. And many of the primates I have seen have been someone's pet, or for sale in the marketplace for a dollar or two. I wrote about the Belen Market in Iquitos in a previous post. Man, that was an eye-opener. The monkeys on string leashes, on human shoulders or laps, and in cages were so sad...and disturbing. I didn't see monkeys on strings or in cages in Africa. I don't know why. Maybe those that are captured are sold as bushmeat.

Anyway, in South Africa this past June, we were really happy to see four species of primates in the bush: vervet monkeys, Chacma baboons, lesser bushbabies, and thick-tailed bushbabies. All of them thrilled and delighted me. Just a few words about the vervet monkeys here, and I'll write about the others later. Vervet monkeys reminded me of the capuchins in Latin America, the famous "organ grinder" monkeys and "helping hand" monkeys for people with quadraplegia.

A white-faced capuchin in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica. He's angry and threatening because I intruded on his troop's foraging route along the coastal fruit trees.

The size and proportions of vervets are similar to capuchins. And just like capuchins, vervets get into picnic baskets, beach bags, and outdoor kitchens - they're not afraid of mooching off humans, and meddling in human belongings. I heard more than one South African describe vervet monkeys as "pests."

Vervets raiding a neighbor's outdoor kitchen at Satara rest camp in Kruger National Park
(pics above and below)

Vervets searching our outdoor kitchen for food in Punda Maria rest camp in Kruger Park (below).

The vervets wouldn't let me get close to them; when I tried they ran away. All mammals have a "minimum distance" that they'll tolerate. Only the sight or scent of food will make them come closer. Which is unfortunate, since feeding wildlife is almost always a bad idea. It leads to malnutrition, illness, and premature death.

The vervets around our kitchen were persistent. They hung around the perimeter of our porch, waiting for us to go inside.

Finally they scored a piece of bread (below) by opening a bag when we stepped inside for a moment.

I felt bad! But I learned my lesson. Food has to be taken inside or locked up. Without exception!

One day I was sitting on the back steps at my friend's house in South Africa, and I could hear a troop of vervet monkeys coming toward his yard through the trees. Vervets make at least 36 distinct sounds, including barks, chutters, chirps and grunts. Each sound has its own context and meaning. I know that a couple of my friend's neighbors feed the vervets because I've seen them do it. So as soon as the vervets spotted me sitting on the steps, with my feet on the grass, a few of them hopped to the roof and peered down at me, to see what I might have in my lap. Nothing.

The vervets peering down at me from the roof to see if I had any food (photo above).

I didn't shoo them away. I didn't do anything but hold my camera, sit still, and look at them. Pretty soon a few crept closer on the ground, to see what I might toss their way. They came closer, hopeful. Below...interested, but pretending not to be.

Inching closer.

Closer still, but still averting the eyes and feigning disinterest.

Closer indeed, and quite ready for the handout. But, alas, no snacks were forthcoming....and soon they wandered away.

Another time we were at Pafuri Picnic spot in South Africa where an African family was having a fragrant cookout, and vervets converged, on the ground and in the trees. I sat down on a bench nearby and tried to get a decent shot, but failed. Even though they were running around 5 feet from me, hoping I had food (I did not), I got almost no photos. They just wouldn't sit still, or look at me. Monkeys have a way of refusing to look me in the face - it must be taken as a challenge in monkey society to stare at someone, because they rarely do me, anyway. Maybe I just look like a really ugly monkey, and they can't bear to look.

Vervets are interesting socially. They live in family groups of females and young that share and jointly defend a traditional home range. A number of attached males help defend the females and their land from "outsider" males. Babies nurse by sitting between their mothers' legs and suckling both nipples at once.

A nursing mother vervet (above) at the Pafuri picnic spot in Kruger National Park

A mother vervet nursing her baby at Satara Rest Camp, in Kruger Park (above)

A female's social standing is determined by her family's rank. High-ranking families get first choice at any resource in short supply. Females of low-ranking families must defer to even youngsters of higher rank. The lower-ranking females try to improve their lot by hanging out with the "aristocrats" - grooming them, handling their babies, requesting their help to resolve disputes. But adult female vervets spend most of their time with close relatives and others of similar rank.

When male offspring mature, they have to migrate to another troop, usually during the mating season. But vervets of both sexes hate immigrants, and many of the newcomers are killed. A migrating male has a better chance if he has an older brother already in the troop he moves to. If he's not accepted, he tries again with another troop.

Males compete with one another for social and reproductive dominance. When a group stops to feed in a grove of fruit trees, the dominant male may sit with his intimidating red penis and blue scrotum displayed as a message to intruders "Mature male on guard. Keep out!"

A dominant male (above) displays his brightly-colored genitals to keep other monkeys away from the sausage fruit (I think) he's eating.

A female or younger male vervet (above) wants a bite of the fruit but is afraid to approach.

I wish I had more shots of vervets completely in the wild, but this is where I saw them....around human habitations, mostly inside Kruger Park, where they're protected.

What's their conservation status? How are they getting along in southern Africa where they're often seen as pests? I spent some time googling "vervet monkeys conservation status" and didn't find a whole lot. The most informative source I found was Wikipedia, under the "Vervet Monkey" entry, "Protection and Conservation"paragraphs.

I read there that vervet monkeys are not monitored and their true status is unknown. I believe it said that they are listed in CITES Appendix 2 as a species that could become threatened if their populations are not monitored. Below is a quote from Wikipedia, slightly edited for clarity.

"In spite of low predator populations in many areas where human development has encroached on wild territories, vervet monkeys are killed by electricity pylons, vehicles, dogs, pellet guns, poison and bullets, and are trapped for traditional medicine, bush meat and for biomedical research. The vervet monkey has a complex and fragile social system - their persecution is thought to have impacted on troop structures and diminishing numbers.

"According to recent distribution maps, the vervet monkey is quickly disappearing in the Western Cape of South Africa where they are heavily persecuted. The Darwin Primate Group is the only rescue and rehabilitation center for vervets in this province, with their primary goals being to find methods for humans and wildlife to co-exist, to educate the public so that the severe persecution of monkeys and baboons in this province is confronted, and to help injured and orphaned vervet monkeys in need. The center has a volunteer program to help with its goals.

"The Vervet Monkey Foundation in South Africa is working on conservation and protection of the vervets. The foundation makes use of volunteer workers from western countries.

"There is also an invasive breeding population in Florida. It is believed that they escaped from the Tarzan Set in the 1950's, or possibly a road show."

!!! I found that last paragraph a bit surprising! Where in Florida, I wonder?

Anyway....vervet monkeys are adaptable to human settlements, more so than most wild animals. Who knows what lies in store for them. But the spirit of persecution that seems to prevail in southern Africa reminds me of the history of the American wolf, who was hunted to virtual extinction in the United States. They've only recently rebounded, in a limited fashion, by the airlifting of Canadian wolves into Wyoming, and their slow natural migration southward from Canada after hunting was banned. Now hunting has been legalized again....

Wildlife needs our help. My husband and I spend all of our charity dollars on wildlife, and preservation of prime wildlife habitat. Consider making a donation to your favorite wildlife charity today. Some good ones include the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, TRAFFIC, Conservation International, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Rainforest Action Network. Or pick a primate organization, one of the vervet organizations mentioned above. Lots of people are trying to change our present trajectory and find a different future that can include wildlife. Be one of them.

Source for vervet social behavior: Richard D. Estes The Safari Companion; A Guide to the Watching of African Mammals. Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

Key words:: South Africa primates vervet monkeys primate conservation

All photos by Sally Kneidel, PhD