Family volunteering is increasingly popular with more and more intrepid families taking the plunge and heading off on an adventure of their own. We often get fantastic and enthusiastic feedback from parents, but what do the children think of it? We have had the great opportunity to learn all about volunteering with monkeys in South Africa through the eyes of a child.
This year, a wonderful mother and daughter headed to South Africa to spend 2 weeks on a family volunteering project with monkeys. Cricket, aged 9, decided to write a blog about her experience travelling the world with her mother and we are sharing a little snippet of her experience with the monkeys here. Here are some of Cricket’s highlights:
- “Caring for monkeys is hard work but fun. Work starts at 7:00am but sometimes starts at 6:00 am too! That is 7 days a week.”
- “We clean the cages, feed the animals, prepare the food, do the laundry, monitor the primates, harvest grass and food, bath babies, babysit the sick baby monkeys, clean everything and all areas (keeps diseases away!), and more!”
- “The fun part is meeting all of the people that volunteer here. I am the youngest. They treat me just like another person. Everyone is so fun and they act like I’m just like the rest of them.”
- “We have BBQs (BBQs are called braai in South Africa) and we always sit down at every meal like a big family. Mommy and I haven’t had many home-cooked meals so these two weeks have been awesome.”
- “The best part is going into the cage with the baby monkeys. They crawl all over you! I love it when you sit in their cage with them. Right now is baby monkey season. Isn’t that cool? What’s not cool is that there are a lot of baby monkeys who don’t have their mommy. That’s the sad part. So it takes a lot of volunteers to keep the baby monkeys healthy and happy. Some of the baby monkeys come here sick and that takes extra extra hard work. Sometimes a sick baby monkey gets carried around in a pouch. They really need their mommy monkey, but a human can make them feel safe and loved while they get better.”
- “I bet you’re wondering how these monkeys get rehabilitated. I have already told you that it takes a lot of work and a very long time. I mean years! The husband and wife who own this center are experts at it too. I don’t know much, but I will try to explain what I know. I watched a load full of monkeys get dropped off the other morning. First, the monkeys go to quarantine. Then, after lots of monitoring and tests, they will get introduced into enclosures with their species. Then more monitoring and lots and lots of time. Next, they will be introduced into a natural and native enclosure. This time it is totally hands off! That means no human interactions but lots of monitoring!!! Finally, when a troop is strong, they will be released into the wild. It even that takes a long time and lots of monitoring. They will be released to a place that everyone agrees is good for them. Agreeing on the place takes a long time too. It has to be a safe place for monkeys to live! And the release is first semi wild into a temporary fenced in area at the location of the release and with lots more hands off monitoring. They have to be extra sure the monkey troop will survive on their on. Finally the gate will open on the temporary fenced in area and they will build natural bridges over the top of the fence and the monkeys will be free in the wild! After more time and monitoring, the fence is removed from the site. I was surprised how long it takes to find the places to release the troops. You can’t just release a bunch of monkeys anywhere! They have to be a strong family of monkeys to survive and the spot has to be safe with lots of things growing that the monkeys naturally eat PLUS water. That’s a lot of things to figure out!