When we first arrived in the Nhamacoa, the forest was enormous and to see a monkey, any monkey, was unusual. But when their habitat was destroyed, we began to see them more often until one day I got quite a shock. Strolling under the leafy, shady trees, I happened to look up and saw the branches heaving and teeming with little black faces peering down at me. It seemed we were over-run with Vervets! Even worse was the discovery that Vervets are prolific, producing young every year and living to the age of 24! We were in for trouble.
Soon, we had Vervets sneaking into my laundry room, on to the verandah and even stealing bananas from my outside kitchen, not to mention juggling with the plates that had just been washed!
The vegetable garden fared even worse. Lovingly tended butternut, sweet melons and cucumbers disappeared into Vervet stomachs and although they obviously didn’t think much of carrots, they pulled them out of the ground anyway, wondering “What’s this?”
In an attempt to frighten them off, Chamboco, our old gardener, made a scarecrow dressed in O’D’s old clothes, a slouchy hat and holding a stick-like rifle against its shoulder. This deterred them for some weeks while they sat in the trees overlooking the garden and studied the object standing guard over the forbidden vegetables. But Vervets aren’t too easily deterred, especially where food is concerned. Some experimentation was made by the braver Vervets and this brought the discovery that the scarecrow stood motionless no matter how close they crept up to it. And soon, to our dismay and their delight, they were joyfully back to their marauding, pilfering ways.
We’ve grown used to buying vegetables and fruit at Shoprite or the local market now and although it’s good to know our monkeys are so well fed, I only wish they would show a little gratitude and leave something behind for us – even if it’s just one mango or a paw paw!