Serious Monkey Business

I was sitting at the beach bar doing the online learning for my PADI Emergency Rescue Course. This involved a lot of sitting through very, very tediously obvious information and only a little bit of actually interesting information. But, I was still glad to be bettering my diving abilities in an emergency, even if I was being taught how to use Velcro.

I glanced up and saw Cameron walking down to join me, we needed the WiFi at the beach bar in order to do the course, and he sat down in the chair next to me.

“You won’t believe it – there’s a monkey upstairs outside the house with half its face ripped off,” he said.

“What?” I replied, pulling out my earphones, not sure that I could have possibly heard him right.

“Under the table outside the house there’s a monkey and half of its face has literally been ripped off,” He stared into space for a few moments before continuing, “It’s actually really upsetting, the poor thing,” Cameron pulled out his laptop and opened it up to start his e-learning. He also pulled out his iPad to watch Friends at the same time. I’m not sure he was one hundred percent dedicated to the course. I didn’t know how he could possibly be taking in the monotonous, automated drone of the woman explaining unresponsive diver rescue techniques while watching Monica and Chandler’s wedding but I guess that’s his call.

I clicked through a few more slides of my presentation before curiosity got the better of me and I went to see the monkey for myself. Surely Cameron was exaggerating – I thought to myself, how could a monkey survive with half its face ripped off? I walked back up to the house and stopped on the stone steps outside the back door, bending down to look under the furniture. And there he was. He was sitting under one of the sofas, a small vervet monkey. I inched towards him. The left half of his face was towards me and it looked fine, but then he turned and faced me, exposing the other half.

I stopped dead; Cameron was totally right.

The entire right hand side of its face was hanging in a misshapen clump at its chin. Blood matted the fur into points and it swung precariously as he gingerly lay down onto the warm stone. He shuffled his body away from me as I approached, but I went slowly and carefully and was soon close enough to see him properly. It was truly horrific. His right eye was completely gone and in the murky shadow I could just make out the shaggy outline of the flesh that lay just over his skull. I was amazed that he was still alive and moving.

I walked back down to the beach bar.

“Jesus Christ,” I said, sitting down. Cam nodded grimly back at me.

“What do you think we do?” He asked.

“I’m not sure,” I replied honestly, “Do you think there’s anything that can be done?” Cam paused and thought for a moment.

“I’ll ring Dad.” He said, “We can see what he thinks,”

“Yeah sure,” I resumed my PADI training, the face of the little monkey lingering in the back of my head as I tried to focus on the symptoms of decompression sickness. Cam told me that Des was on his way over to have a look at the situation. We continued our work, me with earphones in trying to block out the voices coming from Cameron’s laptop and iPad and Cam’s eyes flitting between the two screens (although I think you can imagine which one had his greater focus). About twenty minutes later Des called us to tell us he was at the house and that the monkey wasn’t under the table any more.

“Okay – keep looking and I’ll come up and help you find it,” Cam said and hung up. He stood up to leave, “Can you watch my stuff?” He asked.

“Can’t I come with you?” I glanced up at Cam, disappointment lurking in my stomach.

“Er, yeah sure. We’ll just need to leave the stuff behind the bar,” We packed everything up quickly into my backpack and walked around the house. We saw Des standing by the solar panels and we could just see the little tail poking out from underneath them.

“It’s bad isn’t it,” I said.

“Yeah, really bad,” Des agreed.

“What do you think we should do?” Cam asked

“I’ll pull its tail and you’re going to use that blanket,” he pointed to a pile of burlap-y fabric, “And throw it over him so that we can catch him,”

“Yeah sounds good,” Cam replied.

“Wait, wait,” I said, “There’s a ridge there,” I pointed to the small barrier between us and the monkey. “If you try and pull its tail it will just get stuck and you’ll probably end up getting bitten,” Des squatted down to get a closer look.

“Oh yeah. Let’s chase him out from under here and try somewhere else. I’m sure he won’t go too far,” Cameron crouched down and gently hissed at the monkey to try and scare it away. It didn’t take much and the monkey took off, running to the back of the house and jumping into a tree. Again I marvelled at its functionality despite the horrors of its injury. Cameron, Des and I approached with Cam holding the blanket and it ran under the sofas outside the house again where it lay down. We were trying to figure out a strategy of how we could catch it when something occurred to me,

“Des what are we going to do with is once we catch it?” I asked.

“There’s a vet that I know. I called him,” Des replied on hands and knees behind the sofa.

“So will he come here straight away?” I continued, still not sure.

“No he can’t come today but he said he might be able to come tomorrow,”

“Tomorrow? What will we do with it until tomorrow?” I asked, worried for the monkey. We didn’t have a cage or anything to keep it in.

“I think we can figure that out when we catch it,” Des said, in a tone that signalled the end of the conversation. I couldn’t help but think that sounded like a terrible idea. How would we keep such an injured creature alive for that time? Keep it wrapped in the burlap? It might suffocate – the fabric looked thick and unyielding. And what if it escaped? A pain-crazed monkey was not the kind of thing we wanted loose in the house and someone could get really hurt.

Des tried to shoo the monkey out from under the sofa but it just started making high pitched yipping noises that grated against my ears. The poor creature was absolutely petrified. With each noise his entire body seemed to shake. I had never heard anything like it. It stared out at us with its remaining eye, terror-stricken.

Cam tried to throw the blanket but it moved too fast and retreated to another tree. This plan was beginning to turn sour in my stomach. Des approached the monkey slowly with Cam at his side. I hung back, not immediately needed and not wanting to be. Des carefully moved his hand towards the monkey’s tail, which limply hung down from the tree. In one swift motion he grabbed it and the monkey desperately started scrabbling up the tree. The leaves were shaking as the monkey clung onto any foliage he could find, but Des overpowered him and soon he was on the floor.

“Now!” Des shouted and Cam threw the blanket over the monkey. Des sank down to block its exit but it bolted faster than either of them could move, retreating to a new tree.

“Des are you sure this is a good idea?” I asked, walking over to them. “Aren’t we just going to cause more trauma by trying to catch it?”

“It’s going to be fine,” Des responded

“But surely the stress of chasing it around will only do more damage,” I tried again.

“If we leave it, it will die,” Des said with an air of finality and walked towards the new tree. ‘If we catch it, it will probably die too’ I thought, but didn’t say anything. I had tried to change things, but it wasn’t my place to challenge Des.

It was at this point that Yael started walking up the path from the beach to the house, which ran right next to where we were standing.

“What’s happening?” She asked me, taking in the scene of Des and Cam circling the next tree with a ripped up brown blanket.

“They’re trying to catch the monkey,” I said quietly.

“What?” Yael said, confused.

“They want to catch it so they can get it to a vet but the vet can’t come before tomorrow so we either have to drive the monkey to the vet or wait until tomorrow for the vet to arrive,”

“Tomorrow?” She asked, “What will we do with it until then?”

“Well I asked Des that and he said that we should figure that out once we catch the monkey,” I replied, “But to me that seems like the wrong way round.” Yael nodded slowly.

“And how are they gonna catch it?” She asked, watching Des and Cam as they missed the monkey again and it shimmied up the fence that surrounded the garden, half of its face swinging precariously as it climbed.

“Well the plan was that Des would hold onto its tail while Cam throws the blanket over it but they tried that already and it didn’t work. You should have seen them. Des was yanking on its tail so hard and it was clinging onto the tree.” My heart sank as I remembered it, “I can’t help but think that this will only end badly.”

“Yeah, this doesn’t feel right,” Yael said, watching Des haul a rock over to the fence so that he could stand on it to reach the monkey at the top.

“The monkey is in so much pain and he’s so scared what if he just lashes out and bites Des or Cam? The process of catching him is only going to make his injuries worse and they’re already so bad I’m not sure a vet can do anything to help. And even if the vet can do something what are we going to do with the monkey until the vet arrives? Or if we take it to the vet how can we transport it there safely without a cage? What if it goes crazy in the car?” I paused as Des grabbed a hold of the tail once more and we watched Cam throw the blanket over again. This time the monkey did not escape.

“Never mind then,” I said

Des scooped up the bundle and carried it up to the house. We could just see its feet and the bottom of its tail poking out from the folds of the fabric.

“Are you going to take it to the vet?” Yael asked

“Yeah we are,” Des said and put the monkey down.

“Where is the vet?”

“I’m not sure – I’ll call him,” Des responded and got out his phone with one hand while keeping the folds of fabric closed with the other.

“Wait we don’t know where the vet is?” Yael said softly. We waited for Des to finish his call.

“I think it’s near Mtwapa,” Des said, hanging up the phone. “Let’s go,”

Des carried the bundle over to the car, “Are you guys coming?” He asked. Yael and I exchanged a glance. There wasn’t really a lot we could do but maybe we should go anyway? Could we really abandon the effort at this point?

“Er, sure,” I said and we opened the back door to get in to see the monkey bundle in the footwell of once of the back seats.

“Wait the monkey’s in here?” Yael said and we looked at each other again. “I don’t want to get into the back seat with a monkey,” she said to me quietly.

“Me neither,” I whispered back and we closed the door.

“You’re not coming?” Cam asked putting down his window.

“No we’re not but keep us posted, yeah?” I said and I think Cam nodded as Des reversed out of the drive. Yael and I walked back into the house.

“I’m gonna go back down to the wall,” she said, “I need to finish painting the outlines before it gets dark. What are you gonna do?” I paused. I knew I should go back down to the beach bar to finish my Emergency Rescue Course but in that moment it felt so pointless.

“Probably the beach bar?” I said “I should get back to the diving stuff,” and we walked back down together, neither of us too sure what to say. I pulled out the laptop and opened the online course again and clicked through the slides.

Drop weights to establish buoyancy. Check for breathing. Emergency rescue breaths.

But my mind kept going back to the monkey. I wondered what was happening him. I wondered if he was in pain. I wondered if he was still alive. After reaching the end of my section I put the laptop away, knowing I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on a new one.

As I was packing up to leave Cameron came and joined me.

“Whoah that was quick, what happened?” I asked.

“It died on the way. We buried it in the garden.” He said. His eyes were distant. He looked quite shaken up.

“Oh shit I’m sorry,” I said. There was a silence, “You did what you could. I don’t think it was going to make it anyways,”

“No I think not. I just hate that it died thinking that we were trying to hurt it,” Cam said with a sigh.

“I know, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes,”

“Just the way it goes,” he echoed, and we turned to walk back up to the house.

UPDATE: Since this very sad loss of life steps have been taken to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Zoe Gibbs from the Raptor Rehabilitation Trust, a charity gets sent injured birds from all over Kenya and rehabilitates them, is coming to Kuruwitu to talk to the villagers about stoning animals. She has first hand experience dealing with serious injuries to animals, especially birds, caused by slingshots and will help the villagers to understand the damage that they do. She’ll explain the suffering that they cause and hopefully convert them to safer methods of deterring the animals.



  • Begin PADI Emergency Rescue Course
  • Snorkel
  • More PADI Rescue Course
  • Finishing Bee Movie


    Emergency Rescue Course


        Lunch at Vipingo Ridge

          More PADI Rescue Course

            Cocktail party for Women Golfers down at the beach bar

            • Late morning after a bit of a heavy night
            • Emergency Rescue Course
            • Snorkel
            • Monkey-catching
            • Boat trip, but it was too shallow to actually go out so we just sat chatting in the boat while it drifted on its mooring
            • To Vipingo Ridge to watch England Ireland


            • Editing the newsletter content
            • Frantically trying to complete my Emergency First Responder and First Aid Course with Simon in one day
              • Reading the Responder Book
              • Doing the exam
              • Using Yael as a dead person to practice emergency situations
            • Snorkel
            • Dinner and drinks at Des’s house

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