A personal view, by Johan Gerber


For many years, monkeys and humans have had a love/hate relationship in Mtunzini. The Zini residents are deeply divided as to what should be done – or not – to maintain a peaceful co-existence. I shall attempt to offer an unemotional, practical and honest opinion in an effort to help people to form a balanced view on this matter.
I have lived all my working years in the game reserves of Zululand, and as a family we shared our living space with monkeys and baboons, besides so many other animals. In more than four decades we never had troubles with the primates around us, except for the odd injured or otherwise handicapped individual approaching our house in the hope of easy pickings. The lack of conflict, as well as preventing monkeys and baboons becoming beggars, was the result of strict discipline and plain common sense on our side. But more on this later.


I do not believe there is a monkey problem in Mtunzini. However, I do believe there is a human problem, as many of us do not understand the various aspects of the situation and too many people are driven by emotions and not facts and logic.
So, in an attempt to create a better understanding of the situation, let us take a look at the two main role players in this relatioship– Monkeys and Humans.


In Smithers’ book, The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, it is stated that:-
“The vervet monkey is predominantly a savannah woodland species, being generally absent from open grassland and open scrub except marginally”
The footprint of Mtunzini is based on what was historically mostly open grassland with odd thorn trees thinly scattered. This can be seen on an old photograph taken in 1937. Monkeys from the adjacent coastal forest (their preferred habitat around Mtunzini) no doubt moved through this open area from time to time, but this is not their prime feeding areas. The bulk of their natural feeding takes place in the coastal forests.


The argument that humans have driven them off their natural areas is thus inaccurate, as it can be seen that the area around Mtunzini was unlikely to be their preferred habitat.
It also stands to reason that monkeys will not frequent open areas, as they become easy prey to Crowned Eagles and other predators. They need the protection of the forest canopy in order to prevent predation..


The vervet monkey is omnivorous. Smithers states:-
“Vervet monkeys are predominantly vegetarians living on wild fruits, flowers, leaves, seeds and seed pods”
“In addition they are carnivorous”
There are a wide range of fruit trees and other suitable plants occurring in the coastal forest and adjacent areas around Mtunzini. These provide a range of edible matter all year round. In addition, they feed to a lesser extent on birds, birds’ eggs, insects, grasshoppers, termites, etc.
For a population within ecological carrying capacity, there is sufficient food to sustain them around Mtunzini, given the abundance of edible trees and other vegetation, supplemented by a suite of animal matter available to them.

“There is scientific evidence of a positive association between oestrus and food abundance in chimpanzees, and many primatologists are of the opinion that fertilization is more successful in well-fed female Vervet Monkeys than in those making a natural, less opulent, living. In addition, studies have found that monkey population densities vary according to the food available and that mothers in prime condition shorten the interval to the next conception. Offspring of overly well-fed monkey mothers are also much more likely to have an unnaturally high survival rate. So it is clear that the more abundant the unnatural food, the more monkey numbers will increase.”
From:- JUNE 2015 | VELD & FLORA


Despite what some persons advocate, Vervet monkeys are not protected by law.
• Yes, it is unlawful to discharge a firearm within an urban area.
• Yes, it is unlawful to place poison to kill any animal.
• Yes, it is unlawful to use any snare or trap without permission.
• Yes, it is unlawful – and also unethical – to treat any animal in a cruel way.
But the Vervet monkey per se is not specifically protected by any legislation, except within a proclaimed Nature or Game Reserve.



As can be seen in photograph 2, humans have drastically changed the habitat around Mtunzini over time. We create gardens, plant trees and other vegetation (both indigenous and alien) that bear fruit and flowers. While there is nothing wrong with this, it has offered additional habitat to the monkeys, extending their range, protection and food resources. This results in increased population numbers, while also drawing them close to and into our homes.
And so the conflict started.


There is a perception among many humans that wild animals must be fed as soon as our paths cross. This can be seen from Cape Point, where baboons are fed unnatural and unhealthy foodstuff specially bought for them by naïve tourists, all the way to Kruger National Park, where a wide range of animals and birds are being fed by visitors. This always results in disastrous outcomes for both parties.
Wild creatures have survived for untold centuries without being fed by misguided humans, living off the land and making use of what was provided naturally. In times of plenty, animals flourished and multiplied at an optimum rate. In lean times animals became stressed and either perished and/or reduced their breeding rate to remain within the limits of available resources. In this way the balance of nature is mostly maintained.
In my introduction, I mentioned the fact that we have lived with monkeys and other wildlife around our home for over four decades. We hardly ever had conflict, because we never fed them, we never had potential food on display inside our homes and we never encouraged them to become used to us. They were wild animals and were treated as such – admired, respected and enjoyed, but from a distance. They were left to fend for themselves and we never interfered.
It comes down to discipline, understanding and common sense on the part of humans.
“In well-frequented nature reserves, monkeys and baboons are often a terrible plague, despite the fact that their normal feeding areas and habitat remain unaltered, because they have learnt that ‘humans equal easy food’. Yet in seldom-visited, remote natural areas of southern Africa, these primates have a fear of humans and steer well clear. In such a natural state, without our interference, they do not become over populated and their impact on birds and other wildlife is probably no more than that of other nest robbers like snakes and many bird species. No one would think of wishing to eliminate a Burchell’s Coucal, African Harrier-Hawk or other ‘destructive’

birds like hornbill and certain kingfisher species. Even birds like Crested Barbet and Black Cuckoo have been recorded as robbing nests. After all, birds, butterflies, and monkeys have evolved together and co-existed for ages without our interference.”
From:- JUNE 2015 | VELD & FLORA ( The highlighting is mine )


There is no quick-fix, as we have spoilt the monkeys around Mtunzini for so long.
However, we can start reducing the conflict situations by being practical. Here are some ideas:

  1. Stop Active Feeding.
    No matter how sorry you feel for them, or how convinced you may be that the monkeys are starving to death, stop feeding them. They are not starving to death! Look at the profuse breeding in all the groups around Mtunzini. Animals under stress reduce their breeding to protect available resources. We are offering them a life of opulence by feeding them, which results in more monkeys. More monkeys mean more conflict.
  2. Stop Passive Feeding.
    Monkeys sit in trees and other vantage points, from where they locate fruit and any other foodstuff on display inside your home. Then they enter at the first opportunity and raid your house. One solution that works well is to place fruit in a closed container. We use an old picnic basket with a lid. Nothing is visible, but the fruit is easily accessible to humans. All other foodstuff is placed inside cupboards after use. It just takes a bit of discipline. The monkeys soon learn that there is nothing available at your place and they move along.
  3. Secure Vegetable Gardens.
    Place wire mesh, shade cloth or other suitable material over your veggies. Monkeys love to raid gardens, so this is an important point of conflict that must be secured.
  4. Secure Bird Feeders
    This may not be easy, but can be done. Speak to bird lovers, they may have some good ideas. I use a length of fishing line to suspend the feeder well away from anything else. It works well.
  5. Use of Laser-Pointers.
    A number of persons use laser-pointers very successfully to scare monkeys away. This does not harm the animals, while they are quite scared of the green dot on their bodies. They run off at speed and thus reduce the conflict opportunities.
  6. Place mesh in front of windows.
  7. One cannot keep all one’s windows shut to prevent monkeys entering a building. By placing mesh in front of windows one can still leave windows open safely. Mesh is available at local stores. There is also electric mesh on the market that provides a shock when touched. This option may also be explored.
  8. Safeguard Refuse Bags.
  9. A community project should be started where mesh containers are provided strategically into which all refuse bags can be placed awaiting collection. This will stop monkeys from breaking open the bags in search of food. This will be costly, but if we are serious in our endeavours to solve this problem it is worth investing in this project.


  1. Do not shoot Monkeys.
    Discharging a firearm in an urban area is a serious offence. Monkeys can be wounded, which is inhumane and cruel. Bullets may hit an unintended target. While air rifles are not classified as fire-arms, they are generally not strong enough to ensure a quick kill. They are also unsafe in an urban situation and can hit unintended targets. Don’t go there! The same applies to Paint Ball Guns, some of which are powerful enough to injure a monkey.
  2. Do not poison Monkeys.
    This is extremely cruel and a most painful way to die. Poisoning is also a non-specific killer and anything other than a monkey taking in the poison will suffer the same fate. Furthermore, the dead monkey will be consumed by predators, which in turn may also die from the poison so consumed. Besides being inhumane and illegal, poisoning is an ecological disaster.
  3. Do Not Create Feeding Stations.
    There is a perception that by creating one or more feeding stations, monkeys will be lured away from the village. While well intended, this concept has a number of flaws, and the creation of feeding stations will exacerbate the problem, not reduce it. More food will lead to more monkeys, as explained above. Feeding stations will also lead to conflict between rival groups of monkeys, leading to injuries, death etc. Feeding stations are also easy targets for those who want to kill monkeys.


The above are some ideas on how to co-exist with monkeys. The list is by no means complete and anyone with sound, practical solutions must please share them. Please remain unemotional, logical, sticking to the facts and using a good measure of healthy common sense.
Finally, by persisting in feeding the monkeys, and by not taking steps to safeguard buildings, you remain part of the problem. Let’s all work together to reduce this irritation we all share. In this way, we will help both the monkeys and the fine people of this village.

Johan Gerber
Environmental Cluster
September 2020