How a sanctuary functions

07 August 2018  Read: 220


The Vervet Monkey Foundation (VMF), outside Letsitele, has been around for some three decades. There is a misconception amongst many Limpopo residents as to the workings of this sanctuary and rehabilitation centre.  It is a sanctuary, not a zoo. Therefore there is no entrance fee and hordes of tourists are not desired. However, provided interested people phone or email the VMF, Director Dave du Toit, one of the specialised staff members or one of the volunteers will show people around.

The rumour that the VMF is making huge profits is completely false. It takes a fair amount of monthly finances to run the sanctuary. Volunteers pay for the privilege of looking after vervet monkeys. 

Volunteers pay to look after sanctuary animals throughout the world. The VMF is no different in this regard. If anyone wishes to refute this Dave has all the necessary documentation for sanctuary approval.

There are some 600 vervet monkeys including two blind vervets, three minus tails, and one three-legged vervet. There are also three samango monkeys.  All are in good sized enclosures with high fences, open to the sky with trees and grasses. The VMF would like to purchase a huge track of land for a release site but that takes funding.  Filmmaker Kyle Salazar from California in the USA won an award for his documentary ‘The Vervet Forest’. Proceeds from this documentary are going towards finding that permanent home for the sanctuary monkeys.

The VMF is run on vegan lines in keeping with compassion towards all living creatures. A vegan chef is employed on a contract basis and vegan chefs from around the world vie for a job at the VMF. The current chef is French.

This chef feeds the volunteers and staff. Most of the year there are between eight and 15 volunteers. This number increases to 35 in November and December in order to handle the round-the-clock care that babies need.  This increase in volunteers is indeed because of the influx of babies during the baby season. Mothers move slower with babies holding on to their mums’ bellies with their tails wrapped around each other. They are then not as agile and are vulnerable to being hit by fast moving cars when crossing roads and not so adept at avoiding other human atrocities. Often the mothers are killed and the babies are then brought to the VMF. The VMF had a record of 39 babies this past season. November and December is the peak period as that’s when the babies are born. More trickle in from January to April as those are the ones that people keep as pets and then either school starts for their children or the vervets start biting. Vervets have long canines and in the illegal pet trade these are ripped out so that they can’t bite.

The vet bill for the month of June alone was R8, 000.00. The annual food bill for the monkeys is R350, 000.00. Food for the volunteers is running at R250, 000.00 per annum. Petrol is R220, 000.00 per annum. The high petrol cost is mainly because of driving around to fetch supplies from the various food sources.  The car gets serviced every 2.5 months as that’s how long it takes to drive 10, 000 kms. The vehicle service is between R2, 500.00 and R3, 000.00 every time.

Dave says, “I lead a very simple lifestyle,” and laughingly adds, “and no I don’t have a Mercedes or a boat hidden in a garage that I take out every now and then.”



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