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The Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary Print E-mail
Maitre Gajjar   
Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Bushbabies Monkey SanctuaryThe Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary is located at Hartbeespoort Dam, very close to the Elephant Sanctuary on the R512. It is a newly opened haven taking in rescued primates that have been kept as pets; rehabilitating, and eventually releasing them into the beautiful environment created for them. The Sanctuary's main objective is to rescue and release the monkeys into an environment where they can thrive and live happy lives.

We had the pleasure of visiting the latest of around ten or so monkey sanctuaries around the world, and now the 2nd in South Africa.

This brand new impressive 7.5-hectare environment was created by Elephant Sanctuary owner Craig Saunders and is home to around 70 monkeys of different species. These include; the Capuchin, Spider, and Squirrel monkeys, and the recently arrived Lemurs.

The 90-minute educational and fun tours take visitors through the winding eco-friendly elevated wooden walkways to give them the best view while minimising any potentially negative impact on the environment. The walkways lead through the site in all directions leading up to and crossing the ravine in a superb rope and wooden bridge providing the perfect treetop-viewing platform.

The important message the sanctuary is trying to get across is that monkeys don’t make good pets. Currently no license is required to keep one in South Africa, and so in most cases they eventually have to be rescued due to; restricted spaces, malnourishment, or simply because owners that can’t look after them anymore. They are extremely intelligent animals that need social interaction with their own kind to truly prosper and live happier lives, and this cannot be achieved when living as house pets with humans.

Just as we’d started off we caught our first glimpse of a of a 7-month-old Capuchin named Bonnie. Danny explained that when local celebrity Bonnie was brought in she was wearing a dress and hat! He also said she likes to invite herself along on the tours and even perch up on his shoulders, which she later did. Our tour guide through the sanctuary was Danny, an ecology and animal kingdom ambassador with around 16 years of experience. Just as we’d started off we caught our first glimpse of a 7-month-old Capuchin named Bonnie. Danny explained that when local celebrity Bonnie was brought in she was wearing a dress and hat! He also said she likes to invite herself along on the tours and even perch up on his shoulders, which she later did.

Capuchin monkeys grow to around a length of 30-56 centimetres and weigh around 1.5-4kgs. They live in large groups of 10 to 35 monkeys and Danny explained that eventually there would be some large groups of this size residing in the sanctuary. He also told us that they are amongst the most intelligent of the New World monkey species (species native to the Americas). Because of this, they are often used as “helper monkeys” trained to assist quadriplegics to help with tasks around the house.

As Danny took us through the winding walkways he explained that the site is also home to turtles, squirrels, and other small wildlife besides monkeys, and is developing nicely into a varied ecological environment. The site is full of various indigenous foliage that produces food the monkeys can eat at different times of the year. One example is the African large leaf rock fig which produces fruit they enjoy eating while also providing an important source of vitamins. The monkeys are however fed some daily supplementation, as foraging does not provide all the daily protein they require.

As we wound through the bottom half of the sanctuary we were told that the site is also of important archaeological relevance with evidence of early humans residing there. Tools such as stone flints have been un-earthed and are on show at various places throughout the tour. This certainly provided a fascinating and different angle on the environment.

We then made our way slowly up along the cliff, with Bonnie peacefully seated on Danny’s shoulders, to the wooden rope bridge crossing the valley. I remember thinking it didn’t look as high when I saw it at a distance but it’s certainly quite a drop, all I can say is when you cross this bridge try not to look down too often! This is definitely the best place to see the monkeys jumping through the treetops and rummaging around in the high branches. The view of the entire site from here is serene, peaceful and certainly a photo opportunity.


After the bridge we were taken to the 'neighbourhood' of the Capuchin boys, a small group of around 4 to 5 male capuchins perched above us on the rock face looking down with plenty of interest. Danny explained that the added interest they had in us was because we had Bonnie with us and that she hadn’t quite integrated with them as yet due to her shyness.

The tour wound up to a close with a walk back through the walkways and a quick peek at the large and impressive quarantine enclosures at the site, the place where rescued monkeys are initially brought in and kept before they can be released into the general population.

Time certainly flew by but we were left thoroughly impressed by the educational value and insight of the tour.

The restaurant will have wall length clear windows to give visitors a perfect view of the local inhabitants and ecology within the forest. There are also big changes on the way. Andre, the passionate business and customer relations manager took us on a tour of the in-construction conference centre and restaurant. He showed us the main reception area of the building that will play second fiddle to a stunning large tree incorporated into the architecture. He also explained that the restaurant will have wall length clear windows to give visitors a perfect view of the local inhabitants and ecology within the forest. The textures and materials used in this new development will give a completely natural and eco-friendly feel to the site. We are definitely looking forward to coming back when this is completed, scheduled for the end of 2009.

Andre also has great ideas for the sanctuary, one being the possible introduction of an adoption program, with the public playing a greater role in the lives of the monkeys. Also the setting up of further advanced research facilities at the site to study their behaviour, social habits and interactions with each other in greater depth. There are plenty of things happening and on the horizon at the sanctuary, for current news please visit www.monkeysanctuary.co.za.

We left having learnt more about these intelligent creatures than we ever knew, and felt that we'd been been on quite an adventure at this ecological gem.

I would highly recommend a visit to Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary for a very educational and adventurous insight into the lives of these rescued monkeys. Just be careful when you meet Bonnie for the first time, keep all bags and purses close by or she’ll be investigating before you know it!

Thank you to Danny and Andre for a fantastic visit.

Contact Details
Website: www.monkeysanctuary.co.za
Phone: (012) 258 9908/9
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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