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Chris Slatter

My Blog


Of Man and Monkeys

Tags: Kenya Mombasa Delhi Shanzu 

 Rune of the Day: Algiz reversed, Protection

They came in over the balcony rail, silently avoiding the bed where we were enjoying an afternoon siesta. They followed their noses to the fragrant plastic box and delicately extracted it from the pile of personal possessions on the dresser. Then holding the box between thumb and forefinger one of them snapped open the lid and offered the contents – wax earplugs – to the others who chewed them reflectively until the box was empty. Then the trio tossed the empty box over the balcony and slid down a pipe to safety. The scene of this vandalism was Shanzu Beach, Mombasa , Kenya. The perpetrators were vervet monkeys.

That we live side by side with such clever and artful creatures as monkeys
should be no surprise. Colonies of monkeys live among the inhabitants of cities in Africa, Asia and South America. Delhi has a population of various species of monkeys estimated in the tens of thousands and they’re a problem because they steal, vandalise and occasionally attack humans, according to reports. Delhi is in the midst of a programme to reduce their numbers, basically by extraordinary rendition, to use modern terminology.

In Mombasa there is no such plan to reduce vervet monkey numbers and they’re left to steal, vandalise and entertain the hotel guests pretty much as they like. At Shanzu Beach there are two vervet activity periods, in the early morning and late afternoon. The morning show consists of a few mature adults raiding the garbage bins, but the evening show is something to behold. The entire troupe comes out, from tiny, frolicking infants to mature males, big and self-assured whose whole demeanour says, “I dare you.” They rampage throughout the resort, leaping from palm trees onto guests’ balconies, snatching something and leaping away. It’s quite a show and most people seem to enjoy it. When night falls abruptly, as it does in the tropics, they are suddenly gone.

I asked one of the locals when the monkeys had come to the resort. He told me they’d always been there and, in fact, were there when the construction teams had arrived to tear down their trees and erect hotels for their human cousins. That had been several decades before. The Delhi monkeys began migrating to the city when their own habitats were destroyed by the insatiable human hunger for land. Their successful adaptation from dwelling in the jungle to city life is remarkable and demonstrates great resourcefulness and intelligence.

Human beings are often intrigued and occasionally amazed when they encounter behavioural characteristics in species other than their own which appear to indicate intelligence.
The realisation that we share this planet with many species which have qualities we admire is slowly dawning on us. It is affecting our view of where we fit, which is not at the top of a hierarchical system with other species milling like amoebae far below, but rubbing shoulders with animals that deserve our respect.

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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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