Monkey business or act of cruelty?
It took two hours for rescue workers to scrub layers of thick white paint off a monkey rescued from the Sardinia Bay Golf Estate in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
And as Samson — named by the woman who spotted him — enjoys his mobility once more, the debate continues as to whether it was an act of cruelty or an unfortunate accident.
Joeleen Beyers, who runs Monkey Matters, an environmental conservation organisation, with her partner, Charne van der Mescht, said they were considering reporting a case of animal cruelty to the police.
In the meantime, a resident has come forward on Daron Mann’s MannMadeRadio Facebook page to claim ownership of the paint — but insisted that it was the primate who was up to no good and doused himself in the thick, white substance.
“My storage window was open ... I had painted the storeroom ... an empty can was found the next day and I could not understand why the can was outside.
“I saw a photo a few days later of what had happened [to the monkey]. No-one painted the poor animal,” the man wrote.
He could not be reached for further comment.
Mann, a renowned animal lover, had offered a reward for any information which would lead to the alleged perpetrator being caught.
Beyers and Van der Mescht trapped the monkey, estimated to be about five years old, with the help of golf estate resident ichelle Hughes, who had alerted them to the sighting of the paint-covered creature.
Hughes said she first thought Samson, who was white from top to toe, was an albino monkey.
A trap was set up and, on Tuesday, rescue workers finally managed to catch the monkey, thanks to Hughes’ decadent fruit platter which had lured him into the cage.
Dr Lani Anagnostou, of the 9th Avenue Vet, then sedated him before the hard work began for the women as they tried to scrub the paint off without harming the monkey’s skin.
Beyers said the paint was so thick — up to 5cm on some areas of his body — that they were worried they would have to shave him, something they did not want to do given the impending cold weather.
“We didn’t think it was going to come off with soap and water and we were so worried that we would have to shave him,” she said.
She said in some areas one could see where Samson had tried to groom the paint off himself and that his fur had been pulled down to his bare skin.
The hardening of the paint had impeded his mobility and speed and he had been ostracised from the rest of his troop.
There was even paint on his eye lids, in his ears and on his genitals.
With the use of warm water, soap and a flee comb, they managed to remove all the paint.
“I am sitting next to him now. He is calm seeing the other orphans [rescued monkeys],” Beyers said.
“He is eating well and pooping nicely. This afternoon [Wednesday] the vets are coming here to check on him in hopes that we can release him back to his troop as soon as possible.”
He was now being given pain medication and eye drops.
Anagnostou said she had worked with primates for many years but had never seen anything like this.
She said the only way something like this could have happened accidentally was if the monkey fell into a large can of paint.
The inhumane act of painting a monkey white dates back to the early days of the Voortrekkers when, to protect their crops from foraging monkeys or baboons, they would be trapped and painted with whitewash or covered in bread flour and then released to return to their troop to scare them off.