This program, established in December 2003, is a privately owned and operated wildlife rehabilitation and conservation centre in the Waterberg district north of Pretoria.
About the Program
Vervet monkeys are one of South Africa’s five
indigenous primates. The other four are the lesser
Bush baby, the thick-tailed Bush baby, the Samango
monkey, and the Chacma baboon. Vervet monkeys
are classified as “old world monkeys”, meaning that
they have been around for over 65 million years -
long before apes and humans.
However, their numbers are declining due to habitat loss, formerly classified as vermin so shot and killed by farmers, laboratory testing of medicines, used for ‘muti’ or traditional medicine and the illegal pet trade.
Vervet monkeys are vital to our ecological system and need to be protected. They are an integral part of the natural food chain in parts of Africa as their messy eating habits distribute food from high places to the ground for ground feeding animals. They provide natural insect control by eating the eggs and larvae of many species. They assist in the germination, pollination and dispersal of various floras.
This program, established in December 2003, is a privately owned and operated wildlife rehabilitation and conservation centre in the Waterberg district north of Pretoria. It is well known and especially well regarded for its exceptional work with Vervet monkeys. Since 2008 we have successfully rehabilitated 12 troops of monkeys, who are now living free at safe release sites, on Bushveld farms in Limpopo.
The Wildlife Care and Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Facility is located 20km out of Bela Bela in the Limpopo province in South Africa. The founder of the program originally immigrated to South Africa from Germany in 1990 with her late husband. After his death in 1997 she decided to dedicate her life and savings towards the care and conservation of South African Wildlife.
From a rocky start, they began taking care of animals that were almost ready for release back into the wild and in doing so, recognized their true calling: to help wild animals in need.
People from the Waterberg district learned of their work and started to call upon them for help, as did the veterinarians from the region. They became well known and well regarded as a Rehabilitation Centre and have successfully rehabilitated and released many species of antelope, including Eland, Kudu, Impala, Red Hartebeest, and Nyala, Blue Wildebeest, warthogs, bush pigs, Serval cats, zebra, yellow-billed Kites, black-back jackals, porcupines, and many more. They even had the pleasure of looking after an orphaned Rhino baby in 2009, who is now a sub adult and living free.
Then, by chance, the owner’s heart was touched by a Vervet monkey. It was found abandoned in a cage on a property outside Bela Bela, which was for sale. The owners had already departed, so the estate agent brought the young, female Vervet to the program. A few days later, a neighbour dropped off a younger Vervet. Then, a new Vervet baby was taken away from someone who kept it as a pet and was brought in.
The spark of interest in Primatology was ignited! The quest for knowledge about these special creatures, how to hand-raise them, how to build appropriate enclosures or camps for them, how to feed them, and how to prepare them for release back into the wild was started.
The program is now home to over 300 Vervet monkeys, field guide students and volunteers from around the world to join in the work with these monkeys and all the other wildlife that comes for rehabilitation. They also work in close collaboration with local veterinarians and also function as a transfer station for orphaned or injured baboons in the Waterberg district.
The program recues, rehabilitates and releases members of three of our five South African Primate families:
The Lesser bush baby,
Chacma Baboon and
The incredible team of staff and volunteers concentrate mainly on Vervet monkey rehabilitation, taking in injured and orphaned monkeys, forming troops and finding monkey friendly game farms to release a rehabilitated troop. To date they have successfully given 13 troops, a total of almost 300 monkeys, a second chance to live free again after, as a persecuted species, they had lost their freedom due to habitat destruction, illegal shootings by farmers, snares, electrocutions, pet or ‘muti’ (traditional medicine) trade.
We are often asked by volunteers what they can bring for the babies so if you have any spare capacity in your luggage, here are a few suggestions:
Pampers nappies-newborn to size 3
50ml and 250ml baby milk bottles and teats
Baby bottle brushes
If you have access to veterinary supplies,
please contact us
Vervet monkeys show their emotions through biting, they bite when happy, when sad, they give you little love bites and they bite much harder when they are upset with you! Expect a few bruises (especially in the first few days) you will get urinated and pooped on (we call it “Monkey blessings”) so you will be dirty at the end of the day. It will all seem worth it when you have gained the trust and confidence of one of our orphans who climbs onto your lap for a cuddle or a nap.
Normally the working day starts at 7h45am and depending on the season, finishes between 17h00 (winter) and 18h00 (summer). Always remember that the needs of the animals come first, so working hours and duties can change at short notice.
07h45-10h00: Cleaning of cages, food preparation, feeding, cleaning up of grounds and food preparation area
11h00-13h00: Program work
14h00-15h00: Food preparation, feeding of cages and cleaning of food preparation area
15h00-17h00: Program work. Examples of program work: cage repairing, fire clearance, making enrichment tools for the cages, food sorting and cage building.
The work is not too physically demanding but a reasonable level of fitness is required. As in most remote areas of South Africa, there are no facilities for the disabled.
Bela Bela formerly known as Warm Baths (English) or Warm Bad (Afrikaans) is a small Bushveld town famous for its hot springs. The small town is now mostly a stopover point for the many safari reserves in the area and popular with holiday makers from Johannesburg. The village has all shops you might need for groceries, clothing, medical services and restaurants.
We have negotiated a special rate with AVIS Chauffeur Services for a discounted price of ZAR 1200 (about 95 EUR) each way which takes you from the airport 180 km up north and have you dropped off at the program. If more volunteers share the transfer the costs will be reduced per person.
The program is based in the bush on a privately owned wildlife reserve and offers the unique opportunity to be away from the craziness of everyday life and enjoy true nature. You will not only have all these monkeys around you but also passing troops of baboons who frequent the center on most days, porcupines who come visit at night, a herd of zebra who love the long grass outside the volunteer house and other animals. There are even tracks of leopard seen close to the house so nature is on your doorstep.
The volunteer accommodation consists of 2 rooms which sleep 4 each with en suite bathrooms (shower and toilet) and in the middle a lounge/kitchen area to cook and relax. The outside ‘stoep’ (porch in Afrikaans) offers a shaded area to eat meals and socialize.
The volunteer accommodation is shared with some of the orphaned monkeys and baboons as volunteers will need to care for them 24/7, feed them every 3 hours and change their nappies so expect to share your bed with a monkey or two.
If you prefer a private bedroom with own bathroom we offer this for a surcharge of 15 EUR per night for a single person or 10 EUR per person
There is internet access 24 hours a day available for a fee of R100 (about 7 EUR or 8 USD) per week for usage during your off time.
On weekends only the bar will open for a game of pool and a drink or two and volunteers can ask permission to use the swimming pool on the premises.
Meals are included and consist of cereals and rusks with coffee and tea early in the morning and a brunch at 10:00AM.
Dinner is served at 17:30 and volunteers rotate with cooking and cleaning duties. Fifteen minutes prior to dinner time, a team of two will set the table with supplies from the volunteer house.
This same team will clear the table after meals and do the dishes. A schedule that will include you will be posted within a couple of days of your arrival.
We usually shop twice a week in town and volunteers will be given the opportunity to travel into Bela Bela to shop for themselves and for the other volunteers. We also run a small shop at the premises with beers, snacks and sodas and all profits go to support the monkeys.