Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monkey Through The Looking Glass

Two of the three Vervet Monkeys I take care of are absolutely fascinated by mirrors.

Here Stoffel challenges her reflection - she's been fighting with herself for over 20 years now. Despite the futility of the exercise, if I'm around, she cannot pass a mirror without posturing; raising her eyebrows, approaching her image and chattering in anger.

I have no idea what goes on in her head, I can only speculate that it's her uncontrollable jealousy - she gets insanely uptight if any female, human or other, approaches me

This is Tumbili peering at her reflection in the camera lens - she's cuddling a stuffless stuffed toy.

She has a strong maternal instinct but I can't allow her to mate because that would just perpetuate the 'monkeys in captivity' thing ... Primates should be left in the wild, that's where they belong.

Tumbili using her new porridge bowl as a mirror.

I've given her plastic-framed cosmetic mirrors in the past but she destroys them within a few hours.

She seems to prefer tiny mirror shards, manipulating them to see inside this wonderland which she can't enter - it's too funny to see her turn her back on me, mirror in hand, and watch as I approach with her food.

Lucky shows no interest in mirrors. She is very difficult to photograph - as soon as I point a camera at her she ducks and hides.

She distrusts humans in general and it is only recently that she's begun to approach me and cautiously take her favorite snacks from my hand.

Lucky was found trapped on a barbed-wire fence. She had a dog collar around her waist attached to a short piece of rope which had become entangled in the fence.

She was in terrible condition, her teeth had been knocked out, her mouth deformed and she was full of scars, with a particularly nasty wound around her waist from the dog collar - she had obviously escaped from her tormentors when her restraining rope broke ... hence the name 'Lucky'.

A fur-less monkey takes a photo of his reflection in a window.

This particular specimen generally ignores mirrors but, at times, is obliged to look himself in the eye when he shaves.

A great shot of Stoffel taken by my daughter Nadine. Notice that, because Stoffel only has one arm, she's using her foot to hold the mirror.

Like Tumbili, she spends ages manipulating the mirror to peek into every corner of the 'otherworld' - I wonder who is more entertained? ... her, wondering? ... or me, wondering what she's wondering?

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Soul Sister



  1. I read this post & Soul Sister and looked at the pictures - a very satisfying read. I'm fascinated by the way you identify expressions on the monkeys' faces. I guess I'd have to see the movements that go with these expressions to recognise a threat, for example. I wish I understood why humans would want to torment creatures like this...

  2. Hi Caroline - their expressions of aggression are unmistakable - they pull their eyebrows back and get right in your face - when this happens the best thing to do is to avoid eye-contact and withdraw slowly.

    ... humans are inhuman, if you know what I mean ...

  3. I'm sure I could spend hours watching them look at themselves, he he. I think you must have a lot of patience and concern for our animal friends to look after them as you do. God bless you for it.

  4. Great photos and I'm so glad they are with you now. My parakeet has huge fights with himself in his mirrors too and I wonder what goes on in his head, if anything. What kind of monkeys are they?--Inger

  5. I've never been drawn to having a wild animal...but appreciate that you are giving these animals life. Your photos are magnificent as usual. I can't even begin to imagine having to lock up my computer every time I move away from it!

  6. Loved the story and the photographs too. Thank you Graham!

  7. Thank You Penny - even better than watching, is interacting with them, ... they just love to groom and be groomed - that's what monkeys are ... groomers ... :)

  8. Thanks Inger - They're Vervet Monkeys, the only monkey found in Namibia - we also have Baboons but they're different to monkeys.

  9. Thanks Theanne - yeah, it is a pain ... one night she smashed a bottle of alcohol and got terribly drunk, complete with hangover the next day ... she's a bit more wary of alcohol now ...

  10. ... and thank You Oswaldo, I'm glad you enjoyed it - I believe that you have many beautiful species of primate in your part of the world?

  11. Wow 20 years!? I didn't realise they lived that long!

  12. Beautiful images (think about it?) of some very lucky primates (again?). The hairy ones in finding such a carer, and the hairless one in recording events for the rest of the world to enjoy!

  13. Thanks for the visit cestlavietlb - yes, Stoffel is 22 this year ... I've been told that in the wild their average lifespan is 12 - 14 years.

  14. Haha - thanks Dave - sometimes people ask me if I can train Monkeys - the truth is that they've (Stoffel in particular) trained me ...

  15. We had a vervet monkey in Zimbabwe which my father rescued from some people who were ill treating it. I was always very wary of it as he used to change temperment very quickly and those teeth are not small! He was fine with my Dad but... I guess it was probably jealousy as you have mentioned. It is sad that people mis-handle wild animals and they are unable to lead a normal life. I must say your vervets all seem very happy and settled. Diane

  16. Thanks Diane - yes, their incisors are like razor-blades ... as I mentioned in my 'Soul Sister' post ... I had to have Stoffel's removed by a Vet because she was posing a danger to humans.

    It drives me crazy when I see the cruelty inflicted upon animals by people ...

  17. You are amazing to take care of these dear little animals, Graham. Thank you for that. Thanks for your comment on my post today. If you do a road trip to Kenya, you are more than welcome to overnight with/visit us in the camp. Have a great day, Blessings. Jo

  18. Thanks Jo - and thanks also for your kind offer. I can't see me taking a trip to Kenya in the near future but, you never know ...

  19. Wow over 20 years! That is longer than some marriages and what a relationship. But it is probably easier than keeping a wife happy.

    She is beautiful. Does she get along with the other monkeys?

    Tom, our turkey, used to love mirrors or his reflection on the window panes, but not anymore. He's going through a rough period now since Lucy was stolen from us. Now he sleeps right outside the window by my bed.

  20. Hi Fazlisa - sorry to hear about your loss of Lucy.

    Stoffel gets on ok with Tumbili but she doesn't like Lucky.

    Stoffel hasn't been in the cage for a few years now - she seems to think that the cage is only for monkeys and she gets very upset if I put her in it.

  21. Hi Graham.

    What happens when you leave to go north? Who takes care of them especially Stoffel? Do you take her with you?

  22. Hi Fazlisa - Meme Anna used to look after her while I was away but, as previously reported, she died at the beginning of last year - I pay someone else to live in the house and feed the animals ... it's not the ideal situation but I have no other choice.

  23. Wow looks like she likes the mirror alot
    Must be quite funny to watch as she tries to look at what she caught
    20 years wow
    Isn't that quite the long realtionship now
    Yes stupid people wanting to hurt them is dumb
    And they should be kicked in the bum
    If not worse
    But I don't want to curse
    My Savannah cat thinks he can break through the mirror
    Even if it is clearer
    He scratches and tries to make it break
    But realizes it's a mistake
    The goes and breaks something else in the house
    Because he can't hunt a mouse

  24. Thanks for he visit and comment Pat - yeah, when people are cruel to animals I get the urge to do a lot worse than kick them ...

    ... strange cat you have, I've never seen a cat who's interested in a mirror ...

  25. Your daughter's shot is absolutely great!
    Lovely post indeed.

  26. Thanks Andrea - I wish she would get into serious photography because I think she's talented and takes great pics.

  27. As a youth I had several monkeys over the years which I were to me by by people who had become afraid of them as they got older. Their previous owners had kept them chained. The first thing I did was to let them lose in my parents yard. All their so called viciousness disapeared once they had their freedom and they lived for many years playing in the garden. Each vervet monkey has a unique personality.

  28. Thanks for your input Phillip - yes, each Vervet has a distinct personality ... I call them 'Fur People'

    ... it would be interesting to know whether any of the Vervets you set free returned to the wild and joined local vervet troops?