CLAW South Africa: rescuing monkeys, owlets, cats and dogs is all in a weekend’s work

CLAW Director Cora Bailey responded to a call about a male vervet monkey that was threatening children in a local village. She calmed him after he was captured by feeding him dried fruit. He was transported to a safe haven for rehabilitation before being released back into the wild.What’s a normal week for you?

I often get asked this question, and am always at a loss to answer.

For Community Led Animal Wefare (CLAW) there is actually no such thing.

Recently one late Friday afternoon we received an urgent appeal for help. A vervet monkey was causing havoc at the Simba Chips vehicle depot (Simba are a South African snack food manufacturer) in Johannesburg, where hundreds of vehicles move in and out of the premises every day.

Some Simba staff were concerned as, not only was the vervet trapped inside the razor wire-protected area while heavy trucks manoeuvred back and forth, but many of their colleagues are superstitious about monkeys.

CLAW’s mobile team with vet, Dr Eric Mimbi and DeVillers Katywa, were met halfway by a support team with a monkey trap. The dogs Eric and DeVillers had in their vehicle were transferred to another one, and off they set on their rescue mission.

When they got there, on site security prevented entry, and only after numerous phone calls to track down management who had knocked off for the weekend, was permission granted. But by then it was dark and the monkey wasn’t to be seen.

The trap was placed on a roof, and filled with a bait of fruit and eggs. Security guards and management promised to keep an eye on the trap, and to call us immediately the monkey was spotted.

Saturday morning and several calls later, it seemed the monkey had vanished. There had been no sign of him, we were told.

DeVilliers and I set off investigate, and what a good move. The monkey was in the trap!

The staff begged us to leave him put for another day so their friends and fellow staff could see him. Needless to say we removed him immediately.

Back at the clinic nurse Jennifer Gerner had a constant flow of emergency cases to deal with. Motor vehicle accident victims, poisoning cases, and sick dogs and cats – by noon she had already seen 25 emergency cases, and dealt with potential adopters.

Meantime CLAW Juniors, our youth programme, was in full swing with 50 youngsters, singing, playing and doing craft projects.

And while we were on our way back from collecting the vervet, I got a call from someone who had adopted a kitten that morning, taken it home and decided she couldn’t bear to leave its sibling behind, so she was on her way back to collect the other.

Later in the morning we received a call from a Soweto resident. Her dog had died several days ago, and she was battling to feed the eight pups – could we help?

Lumka went off to the collect the babies and when she got there, she found the momma dog had been buried in the yard with a cross and flowers. Clearly she had been a beloved companion.

The puppies were in perfect condition.

On Sunday, vet nurse Katie drove our monkey all the way to Bambelela – a wildlife care centre, specialising in vervet monkeys. He will be safe there and will join an existing troop for eventual release.

On Monday (okay, okay so this covers more than just a weekend – but only just), the clinic is full to overflowing with medical and surgical cases when someone brings in a dead owl, they had found quite close to our Durban Deep clinic.

They suspected it had fledglings.

Some of the team go off to find the chicks and, sure enough, they are found but then Katie and Themba have to climb onto the roof of a dilapidated building, and crawl into a pipe to get them out.

Katie is a brave nurse, but is claustrophobic. She retrieves the three baby owls, is covered in owl poop, and has to compose herself before continuing work.

The baby owls are taken to FreeMe, an excellent rehab centre that specialises in raptors. The mother owl was examined and it appears she might have been electrocuted.

So, an experienced fosterer has taken the eight pups, the monkey is safe, the baby owls are safe, the clinic is full, and the emergency calls continue to come in.

Then Dr Mimbi returns from mobile with 12 dogs that need to be spayed, and Danile arrives with two poison cases that require urgent attention. We clear a storeroom to make space for extra cages, make sure the dogs are warm and comfortable, lock up the office and go home.

It’s a CLAW life!


For more information about our efforts to help animals in crisis in South Africa, visit our CLAW project page.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy