A surprise new arrival this week was a baby bonnet macaque. He is about 2 or 3 months old and was living at one of the beach shack cafes on one of the quieter beaches in the North of Goa. It was reported to the centre by a tourist and knowing that the monkey can be quickly sold on and disappears. John immediately left with Krishna, our Kennel Manager who speaks English and Hindi, to see what the situation was.
The monkey was so young that they had him running loose and when spotted he was dashing round the plastic chairs and tables trying to avoid the tourists and dogs, to grab food off the tables. Playing innocent John eventually got a firm grip on the baby and a proud boast from its owner admitting it was his. Things then moved to stage two, where John showed his warrant card, from the Animal welfare Board of India, which entitles him to remove illegally held wildlife. It is illegal to keep a monkey or any Indian wildlife in India. It was explained to the owner that he could either hand the monkey over now, with just a warning never to get another, or the police could be called and a charge filed, meaning a court case and possible fine or prison sentence. In reality cases rarely get to court, and the law is rarely enforced, and even if it went to court it is likely that the owner would abscond long before that. He reluctantly handed him over; he had paid a beach tout 500 rupees, about eight pounds for him.
The baby was underweight and in a very highly strung state. Manuel, as we called him, turned out to be infested with worms and for the first 24 hours was in a more or less in a permanent state of panic only relieved by periods of fitful sleep bought on by sheer exhaustion. His mother would have had to be killed in order to get the baby and this trauma would be followed by days or weeks of being dragged around to find a buyer for him, and all this for eight pounds! Very few baby monkeys survive this trauma and most die in the first month of being taken.
He has gradually calmed down and accepted that we are not going to abandon or harm him, although he worries whenever he is passed from one carer to another and frets, but I am sure his confidence will soon return. He had to be isolated from the other monkeys for 3 days while the worms were cleared and he was checked for other infections, but when he met our other two young bonnets, Tufty and Baldrick he was thrilled and instantly started to play with them, although they are much bigger and stronger than him. He has so far slept in John’s room at night, but we now have a volunteer staying who is taking him on. With the progress he has made it won’t be long before he will be ready to stay out with the others in a pen for the night, especially as Basanti, one of the adult female’s shows signs of wanting to mother him.
One last twist was that his last owners came unannounced to the house hoping to retrieve him. The Indian man and a European lady, who despite seeing him happy and playing with the other babies, wanted to take him back to the shack as her pet. Her English was limited but not as limited as her understanding that he was now far better off. No doubt keeping him would provide them with some amusement but their interest would soon lapse and he would become yet another bored monkey on the end of a short chain living a life of isolated misery. Needless to say they went away empty handed, and if still not fully comprehending the rights and needs of a monkey, with no doubt that if they tried to get another, the police would be involved next time.