Pictured above: Geertje; and Nanushka showing her broken arm caused by the in-fighting
We’re all head over heels for gorgeous Geertje the Barbary Macaque, so it breaks our hearts to say goodbye to him. However it’s time to let go, and give this troubled monkey the chance of happiness in a bigger troop that will suit him better than the little posse he’s currently with at Monkey Haven.
Geertje – pronounced Here-chee – has been feeling very unsettled since his pal Anou died three years ago. Anou used to be the dominant male in our group, and when he passed on, that role was left to Geertje to fill as he’s our only remaining chap.
“Unfortunately, not all boys are cut out to be dominant males, and Geertje does’t have it in him”, says Keeper Terri Cook. “He’s too nervy and much happier sitting back and being one of the girls. Since Anou died, he hasn’t really known what to do, and so instead of looking after the girls, he’s ended up bullying them.”
Sadly, Geertje doesn’t know the law of the jungle, because he was brought up as a pet. He was found taped up in a rucksack when he was a baby, being smuggled through customs. All our Barbaries are ex pets, with troubled backgrounds – one was fed cigarettes, another was kept in a dog cage, while others were chained up. “Because of what they’ve been through, they’re all socially unstable”, says Keeper Lisa Simpkins. “This makes bonding as a group really difficult, and now they’re struggling, which is so sad as it’s not their fault at all.”
Barbaries are very hierarchical animals. Without a strong leader at the top, there’s been a lot of in-fighting and now their whole group structure has collapsed. Nanushka, the lowest ranking member of the group, has come off the worst, and has been picked on by all the other girls, with Geertje as the ringleader. Last month, Geertje viciously attacked her, biting and hitting her, and breaking her arm. Poor Nanushka needed lots of stitches, and you can see the damage caused in the picture above. She then developed a life threatening infection.
“If we hadn’t encouraged Nanushka to move away from the group, and then separated her, we would have lost her”, says Terri. “These monkeys will fight to the death. So after taking advice, we’ve now isolated Nanushka for her own safety.”
After many long discussions with the AAP, the primate rescue charity based in the Netherlands, we have decided that it’s in all their best interests for Geertje to be rehomed in another group, where he won’t have the stress of trying to be the dominant male. The AAP work with lots of groups of Barbaries and are confident that they’ll find a suitable new troop for him. It can sometimes help when the ‘bullies’ are placed with juveniles, as they know that the babies won’t attack them, and that builds up their trust. A bigger group, with a clearer power structure, could also help him. There’s a good chance that he could be reunited with his brother, who lives in Spain.
“We’ll be so sad to see him go”, says Keeper Lisa Simpkins. “But it’s in his best interests and hopefully the girls will be able to settle now, too. We’re doing all we can, trying to build up Nanushka’s strength with little bits of fresh fruit, and slowly reintroducing her to the girls. It’s going well so far, and they’re even grooming her which shows that they’re starting to bond again. Nanushka is starting to put on a bit of weight too, particularly around her bottom, which is a good sign.”
So wish us all luck, as we try to bring harmony to this unruly tribe. “We know the group could break down again at any point, so we’re on full alert”, says Lisa. “We’re also in close contact with the AAP, who are world experts in rescued animals’ behaviour. The Barbaries’ safety and welfare is hugely important to us, so we’ll be doing everything we can for them.”
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