Monkey business

Primates are of course the majority of animals we look after here in Lilongwe. The babies are in small enclosures, there are baboons, vervets that are kept in quarantine enclosures (f.e. waiting to be released into an existing group), but most of the primates already live in their group/family in much bigger enclosures, outdoors. They do of course also have in indoors area where they can get into.
Both during the morning and afternoon shifts you can be appointed to one of these.
Let’s start off with the morning duties.
They start at 8:00am with chopping fruit and veggies. Buckets full have to be chopped and let me tell you it’s not always the cleanest of jobs! A lot of the fruit is well, over ripe and is already a bit squashed. Add to that the fact that the knives, axes and the like aren’t very sharp.. do I need to draw a picture here 🙂 Often we are covered with seeds, squash (no point in washing your clothes really). One good thing about their materials not being too sharp: I still have all my fingers and tumbs because if they were working properly I would not have been able to write this note at the speed I am doing it now.
Anyway, we chop and chop until 9-10 buckets are filled. Fruits and veggies used are: cucumber, mango (NOT the nicest of fruits to cut!), corn, melon, carrots, lettuce and I am sure I am forgetting some.
After chopping and l cleaning up the kitchen we … wait! Yes. We do not start any earlier than the appointed feeding hour which is 9:30 am. The chopping usualy takes about an hour so that leaves us with half an hour. Coffee time 🙂
When the feeding time has finally arrived we are devided into teams: primates, olives. We go to that species enclosures and toss the food over the fence. Not always the most easy thing to do as the fences are rather high and on top of the electrified wiring. And of course as it always happens, I hit those wires and poles often. If I would try to hit them deliberatly I would never be able to do so 🙂
Sometimes the feeding is straight forward but at times we have to split up and go to different parts of the enclosures. Males tend to fight over food so that is why it is given from 2 sides.
When the feeding is done it’s time for some cleaning 🙂 And let me tell you. Monkeys can leave a lot of (smelly) mess behind. Armed with a( hand)brush and bucket we go around each indoor enclosure. First we gather the faecies and the remains of their fruit, sometimes we do have to scrape it off the floor or walls or benches than we empty their water (which is stored in a tire). By that time a bucket will have been filled with water and detol so we can start scrubbing the floor. That’s easely done as all the enclosures slope to one side so that the water drains easely. Once that is done there’s only one more thing that needs to be done and that’s filling up that tire again with fresh water. After that comes the most important part really and that’s properly LOCKING the enclosure. Not only with 2 handles but also with a padlock. Monkeys are smart you see. Depending on how many volunteers there are on the job you usualy have about 3-4 to clean.
While we do the cleaning the monkeys or primates are kept outside of course but it’s always interesting to see what they are up too. Big males showing the lower ranked males who’s the boss, females presenting themself to the big male. And let me tell you, when a female baboon is ready she shows it! Her buttocks become very red and well, ugly. But it’s a definite turn on for the male, that’s for sure.
They are also very vocal and seem to fight a lot. Sometimes when they scream they remind me of fighting cats.
Afternoon shifts are pretty much the same except for the cleaning part.
The shift starts at 2:00pm as we start chopping the fruits and veggies.. when we are done early we wait until 3:30pm for feeding to commence. This really doesn’t take longer than half an hour so if you are appointed this in the afternoon you do have a lot of time off. Which is a shame really as there are so many things that we could do/help.
The work loud is definitly a lot more than at Antelope Park but still I do believe volunteers can do so much more.

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