3rd November 2008

Daisy was the first baby Bonnet Macaque to come to us in December 2005. She had been touted along the tourist beaches for photo's or better still to sell as a pet. This is totally illegal in India, but widely ignored. She had been snared at some stage of her capture as she had deep cuts around one wrist, her mother had probably been killed. A European tourist had purchased her out of concern, unfortunately this act of compassion just promotes the trade and indeed she proved to be the first of 6 babies we got that season.When she was brought to us she was underweight, dehydrated and terrified. Because of this traumatic start, Daisy has always had health problems and has a weak heart and easily gets infections, she is also undersized and is still much smaller than the others of a similar age. As the other babies outgrew her in strength and vigour we eventually had to separate her from them. Luckily she was then adopted by Nora, a rescued adult performing monkey of about 6 years, Daisy willingly took on the role of her baby and relishes the cuddles and fuss that Nora lavishes on her.

But Daisy is no wimp, and she still expects, and usually gets a first class service from her human carers. She is still taken out at least once every day and has additional food and a walk in the garden. When time permits I am her choice of escort and she has me on a strict routine that must be adhered too. Any variation in direction will inevitably result in a bite on the head from her position of authority on my shoulder. Not surprisingly, the other monkey walkers are always rather reluctant when it comes to her turn, as she is very bossy and quick to chastise. I have to take her first to the kitchen where she has high calorie treats, almonds, dried fruit, yogurt or avocado. She will then select fruit from the fruit bowl and we proceed to the area of her old pen, where those that used to pick on her still reside. Here she will sit, safely out of reach but in full view and consume her prize item. It is hard to believe this is not a deliberate snub to her old mates and certainly infuriates them, and it is not until she has there full attentions that she will move on to go round the garden on an insect hunt. All the macaques love to catch and eat insects and any butterfly that is daft enough to fly past will be snatched from the air. Her favourites are the giant grasshoppers and praying mantis that she finds on the shrubs and trees, which she brings back to my shoulder to eat. As only the juicy bits are worth eating, I can expect the twitching limbs, wings and heads to be dropped in my hair, or down inside my clothes. Should one of her victims escape and jump on me when she is hunting, I will again get bitten, as she sees this as me stealing it.

Understanding a monkey's way of thinking is not easy, and is often the opposite of what a human would think. As babies they will expect you to provide them with food items, and although they get cross and impatient if you take too long about it, you can imagine they are grateful. As they mature, and particularly if you are giving them a special treat, you can usually expect a very bad tempered response, if not a nip into the bargain. This often astonishes visitors who feel they should be grateful, but the monkey is annoyed because it thinks you should not have had the item in the first place, so its not "Thank you" but "give it to me its rightly mine anyway".

When well enough, Daisy lives with Nora in one of the pens, but when she is unwell, as she was recently with a chest infection, which meant she was on intermittent oxygen, she came back into the house. Surprisingly perhaps she just accepts going back into Nappies and at dusk takes up her old position in the bed, under the bed cloths, that she had as a baby.

Happily she is well at present and seems to be increasing in strength under Nora's tender care.



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