As the Easter holidays started to creep up on me I began to think about how I wanted to spend my three weeks off university. I hate sitting around not doing anything, so I knew I needed to go away somewhere. Now, sunbathing and beaches have never really appealed to me. I can sunbath for about 10 minutes and then I get bored… and burnt! I love volunteering and giving my free time to help out people and animals that need it so i started looking somewhere interesting to volunteer that would look good on my CV. After crawling through google for hours on end I finally came across a monkey rescue centre in South Africa, Johannesburg called “International Primate Rescue” (IPR for short) and I decided to go here for two weeks. On their website they say “Our volunteer program will give you a fascinating wildlife experience whilst you learn about primate behaviour and animal care”. So as it sounded like a brilliant experience I booked it and before I knew it I arrived.
When i arrive i was shown around the volunteer accommodation first. I was shown around by a long term volunteer who explained to me that the volunteer accommodation was incredibly basic and slightly run down, but this was because all the money they get goes towards the monkeys. So of cause at this point that did not bother me in the slightest, the more money for the animals the better! After i was shown around the volunteer accommodation i was then shown around the centre. The monkey enclosures looked very run down and dirty but i didn’t think too much of it at the start, there could of been many different reasons as to why the place looked so run down. The rest of that day i unpacked and tried to relax, ready for the two weeks of work ahead of me.
The Tuesday morning i woke up and got ready for work. The routine for short term volunteers starts off with morning”supplements” for the monkeys. This was just a bowl full of a horrid porridge mixture. Now if this was just a once a day thing i would understand, it is hard to completely recreate the animals natural diet in captivity so sometimes the animals will need supplements to make sure they are getting all the nutrients and vitamins they need, but this porridge was just full of rubbish and was fed to them multiple times a day.
After supplements, all the volunteers clean a monkey enclosures, enclosures are on a rota as to which is cleaned that day. What i soon found out was that most of the monkey enclosures were only cleaned out once a week. This meant that the monkeys are living and sleeping in week old food and faeces, which is just disgusting. In-between cleaning, the monkeys food gets topped up with porridge and i tiny amount of the actual food they need. They also don’t get given much water because the monkeys “don’t like water”. Then at the end of every single day the monkeys are given treats, these came in the form of popcorn, cheesy puff crisps, sweets, cereal and marshmallows. After my first day I was so shocked, this was nothing as i thought it would be like or even how they made out on there website to be like.
After the first day I realised that this place was not as good as it made out to be and i started to keep a list of everything that i did not agree with, check out the list below:
- They clean the animals enclosures with bleach, not F10 or something that is safe for use around animals
- The owner really liked the squirrel monkeys she rescued so instead of getting them neutered so they wouldn’t breed in captivity she left them. This might not sound to bad but as they are already in captivity they shouldn’t be breeding anyway and they are also all related so there going to produce inbreed offspring.
- They are fed too much porridge and not provided with the nutritious food that they should be fed! Feeding can affect growth, disease resistance, lifespan and breeding so it is important that they get the right food
- They are left from around 6pm till around 4:30am without ANY food or water!
- They only clean the enclosures once a week
- They get fed sweets and crisps as a treat. On one if the days one of the monkeys escaped and when they got her back they gave her a water bottle full of orange lucizde.
- They tranquillised a monkey themselves without a vet present just to see how much of a dosage they would need in the future, these are also used to “calm” the more “crazy” monkeys down
- No vet care and if a monkey is ill they just give it a sugar protein drink
- No safety measures at all! No safety corridors on the enclosures and the doors are shut with wire, no locks!
- One long term volunteer let 9 monkeys escape in under 6 months
- Rats everywhere!
- The dogs that the owners have are incredibly fat, and the poisoned rats are fed the dogs by the owners
- All food is given in bowls, nothing is scatter fed. The monkeys are not given any enrichment
- Nail on the monkeys were incredibly overgrown
- Kitchen where the animals food is kept and prepared is covered in dirt and filth!
- There was a baby monkey that was stolen off it’s mother within 3 hours of its birth to be hand reared and kept with there own monkeys
- Nails pointing out of the wood inside the enclosure, causing injury to the monkeys and volunteers. The enclosures where also full of holes and the monkeys kept escaping.
So as you can see from the list above, IPR is really not a very good place! They have no idea on how to look after monkeys, let alone the money too! It’s such a shame because there intentions are in the right place. The monkeys at IPR are ex-pets or have been lab animals where they were experimented on, so on one hand where they are now is better than were they where. But at the same time they have no knowledge on how to look after the different species of monkeys they have and they also have no intention of trying to learn. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were eager to learn and improve the place but i don’t see that ever happening!
It was so hard for me to get my head around why they were looking after these beautiful monkeys so badly, and it wasn’t just me who had an issue with it. Before i arrived there was a long term volunteer who was meant to be there for two years, he left after 2 months. While i was there, there was another long term volunteer who was meant to be there for one year and she left after 5 weeks. She really struggled with how the animals were being treated and she just couldn’t cope. Luckily, me and her got on very well and that really us both get through the experience there. If you love and care about animals, I would NOT recommend anyone going to volunteering at IPR!
This is the web address incase anyone would like it, but as I said above I do NOT recommend anyone volunteering here: http://iprescue.org/2016/05/08/volunteer-with-us/
Although i really did not enjoy my time volunteering at IPR, my whole trip was not ruined. I had 3 days off during my stay there and i needed to get out of that place. On my first day off me and another girl had the day off together so we decided to go to a game reserve called Dinokeng Game Reserve.
Our first game drive was at 6am, so we had to get up at 5am and then travel to the place. Once we were there, we were showed around the beautiful facilities and then directed to the truck we would be in. It was a very cold morning and for some reason we were in shorts and dresses (we were being optimistic for sun, it didn’t work!) so as soon as we sat on the truck we covered ourselves in the blankets provided. Our first game drive was incredible, i had never experienced anything like this before and i was in total awe! The game reserve is an astonishing 18 thousand acres of land, each more beautiful than the last.
On the drive we spotted giraffes, hippos, rhinos, monkeys, zebra, crocodile, LOTS of Impala and wildebeest. It was amazing to see these completely wild animals in their natural habitat. During the drive we stopped by a lake that had hippos swimming in it and we had a cup of tea and a biscuit, the view was incredible (see Image right). After the game drive had finished we went and had a free buffet breakfast, it was so delicious! Unfortunately the weather had not improved and our next game drive was not until 4pm, we had 7 hours to wait! We decided to rent a room for the day as we were so cold and there was no way we were getting in the pool or sunbathing.
Our day at Dinokeng was so relaxed, the room was perfect! After staying in grubby volunteer accommodation for a week it was nice to have a nice warm shower and a clean bed. We spent the day sleeping and relaxing, it was great! At 4pm we went on the sunset drive, and it was definitely worth the wait. The sun was bright orange as it slowly went down over the game reserve. We seen some more beautiful animals but my favourite part was definitely when we found two lions. Once the ranger knew the lions were close by, he turned the engine and all the lights off and out of the darkness all you could hear were bushes moving and footsteps, then out of know where… the roar! It was one of the most beautiful sounds i’ve ever heard, if not slightly terrifying since we were sitting in the pitch black! Once we heard them he turned he lights back on and we drove to were we thought they were and they walked right in front of our truck. It was such an incredible sight!
I loved my day here so much that i decided to come back for another day the week after. This was just as amazing as this first time, if not more so. Thus time, we got stopped in the middle of the road by a family group of rhinos, it was such an honour to see them up close in the wild, i could feel myself getting emotional! We also seen 3 huge elephants walking though the trees, it was a sight that i will never forget! If you are looking for a day out to remember then i 100% recommend visiting Dinokeng!
Here is the web address for Dinokeng Game Reserve: http://www.dinokengreserve.co.za
Here is the web address for the specific lodge and game drive i used within Dinokeng: http://www.mongena.co.za