Talk to the animals!
14th July 2017
Plenty of rain for the crops again in this year’s monsoon so far, but of course this makes the market trips for the monkeys food and supplies a bit of a trial, Some of the market areas in Mapusa, our local town, are now permanently ankle deep in mud for the duration of the monsoon. The local population just accepts this as the norm, and with no tourists around, the local council see no reason to even try and help, by putting in dry walkways.
With the very wet and humid conditions turning the whole of Goa into the perfect plant propagator, the market at this time of the year is always flooded with people selling pieces of their garden plants. These can be small branches to short stems of everything from fruiting trees to orchids, at just a few rupees each, and you really can just stick them in the ground, and they will quickly root and grow away. The humid conditions also mean that things like the monkeys fresh peanuts, if stored for any time, will also sprout and start to grow. Mosquitoes also like these conditions and any centimeter of exposed skin, not freshly covered in repellant, will be found and feasted on, night or day. At night in particular, violent thunder storms and rain can rock the tree house. Kochi, the 4 dogs, and Phoenix , the upstairs cat, all insist on crowding into the bedroom with me. Kochi and phoenix have to share the bed, and the horrible conditions outside force them into a rather reluctant friendship, as neither wants to give up their prime position!
At last we hope that we have a new male member of staff to help Nagesh with walking the monkeys. This is a job that needs a male, as monkeys are very sexist. Adult female monkeys may regard any other female as a rival for their favorite male, monkey or human, and the adult males regard all females as inferior beings that are not permitted to tell them what to do!
Any job with animals here in Goa is viewed as very low in status, and the local men and boys would rather work in any shop, office or even a grotty factory, however lowly that position, than work with animals. There is certainly no such thing as a calling or just a wish to help animals that we have found in our recruiting. Our new recruit, Pavan, comes from out of state, and gave up a factory job to try working here. He is still getting to know about monkeys, and hopefully he will come to like, and even communicate with them eventually, as Nagesh does. After just a few weeks he can already handle the easier ones.
One big problem that we have always had here is getting the local animal rescue staff, to talk to the animals. In a culture where your dog lives outside your home, and contact with its “owners” is basic and minimal, any verbal communication with an animal is viewed as being peculiar. At Johns original rescue center he would desperately try to get this communication going. Staff would just in silence, stride into the kennel of even a newly picked up dog, and try to clip a leash on it for a walk , and be surprised when it cowered in fear or even growled. Just a few kind words of assurance, in any language, would be enough to change the dog into a happy participant, and Johns frequent yells of “talk to it” always reverberated around the kennels!
In countries where pets become part of the family this verbal communication with your pet is pretty basic, but some volunteers who come here, still have a problem relating this to the monkeys. This is strange to me, as of course monkeys have a far better understanding of verbal communications than dogs and cats, and will view any silent handler, as a bit of a threat. The actual language is of little importance, but the monkeys will quickly pick up on the context, be it reassurance, let’s have fun, or, please don’t do that!
We do however have to tell both visitors and volunteers, don’t just shout NO…at any of the monkeys. In order to be able to establish and impose your total authority over an adult monkey, as they would view obeying or even accepting such a command, you need to have first established yourself as their troop leader, and you would need to have done many hours of work, interaction and communication, to get to that point!
More new cats have joined us from the local “unwanted pet dumping area”, the market, this month. See details on the web page. This brings the total to 20 here. All 3 were young cats, rather than the more frequently collected small kittens, and as such are virtually impossible to find homes for in India. Introduction to life at the tree house is ongoing for them, and the two bouncy pups, Squidge and Spats don’t make it any easier, not to mention the already established and generally unwelcoming, 17 resident cats. They also have to learn to stay close to home, as the surrounding forest contains several cat eating species of wild life.
Health problems for Butch, one of the resident monkeys and treatment is not easy , as he is one of the those that had not had any previous good experience of humans. He came to us as an adult, from an isolated life on a chain we think, and although he shares a pen with a human friendly female, Matilda, we have not been able to change his understandably negative view of us humans. Tests are ongoing for his varied problems and we are hoping that treatment will be possible, and beneficial.