His mother was killed when he was just two days old, but now Cricket the five-month-old vervet monkey is full of life as he prepares to go back into the wild.
Cricket, found on a farm just outside Despatch, has been living with Monkey Matters founder Joeleen Beyers for about two weeks, and acclimatised well to his new surroundings.
Monkey Matters was a halfway house for infant monkeys and baboons, Beyers, 44, said.
Originally from the US, she has been living in South Africa since 2001. She said although looking after the furry little creatures was a full-time job, she would not have it any other way.
Beyers has a BSc honours degree in biological anthropology from the University of Illinois in Chicago and has worked in research facilities and zoos.
She said most of the primates she looked after were orphans, but there were also injured animals and abused pets that had been confiscated by the environmental authorities and pets that had been handed over willingly.
“I saw there was a need for something to be put in place to help these primates. They are being persecuted all the time, all over the country,” Beyers said. She initially started small, offering advice and drawing up a management plan for Woodridge College after they experienced a problem with vervets on their property.
Shortly after this, in 2011, she launched her primate sanctuary.
Beyers said her resident primates could number as many as nine, with each of them staying on for at least eight weeks, but longer if necessary.
“When we have the orphans, it’s like looking after babies. You have to be able to have them with you 24/7.”
Once her patients are healthy enough to travel, they are flown to the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Limpopo, where they undergo further rehabilitation before being released into the wild.
She said all the work she does is self-funded, although the Monkey Matters team – comprising Beyers, Toni Inggs and Charne van der Mescht – also receives donations of toys, nappies and other items for the primates.
Asked why it was so difficult to rehabilitate infant primates, compared with other animals, Inggs said primates were family orientated.
“You will never find them living in a solitary situation, unless they have been kicked out of troop or they are trying to find another troop.”
Van der Mescht said development had severely reduced monkey habitat.