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Entry 28A - First week with Baboons

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Entry # 28 A – First full week with baboons

Monday, August 28

I went to bed feeling a little sorry for myself as I had misread my schedule and assumed I had 10 hours straight of work. I woke at 3am and could not get back to sleep. I think I will try and stay up a little longer tonight and take a pill in order to sleep until 6am at least.

I was determined to get more regular meals today and to get into my groove. I was also determined it would be a better day than yesterday.


7:00 Bottles – This is a huge bottle and work start up session that also includes moving the troops outside. I took Beau out today and he made such a fuss, that I scuffed him and he bit me most of the way. Not an auspicious start to my animal communication for today.

7:45-9:00 Small Babies – Nigel is still my best friend, although Mr. Stubbs, Oros and Valentine all made an appearance. Even Star was okay today as I would acknowledge her and then ignore her, which seemed to work. At the end of the session, Nigel was being a poop and when I restrained him, he got really pissy with me and is no longer my friend (for today!). Sigh! Their egos are so fragile, any discipline upsets the apple cart and they hold a grudge. I miss my friend.

9:00 – Crates- I thought that crates would be a lot easier today as we did not have any more melons, but that just meant we had to cut up 3 times the number of cabbages. This is the second day of crates and we have had a hard time getting through the entire cutting and sorting within one hour. Extra people might help, but with only three machetes, there is only so much the extra people can do. Not mine to fix.

10:00 – Monitoring – Sindle troop much calmer today and very cute. The large sequestered male in Bip Bop still did not like my presence, but after he was fed, he was concentrating elsewhere.

11-12 – Bottles – I am the bottle queen.

12-1 Medium babies – It is getting hotter during the days, so sitting in the hoks in your hooded windbreaker is not always the most fun, but the only way to keep your arms out of teeth and your hair in your head. The troop was much calmer today, sort of sleepy in the midday sun.

I had an hour break during which I hand washed some clothes, heated up and ate soup with an apple and cheese and actually relaxed for a minute.

2:00 Lower deck – the lower level of our house with the kitchen has one side as our dining room that I needed to sweep and clean. With the thatch finally gone, I tried to get all the little remnants out. Just as I began, the three new girls from the UK arrived and I helped to settle them in. I also took my rag and attacked the rat terds in the shower room. More organization still needed in the shower as the floor is littered with bottles of shampoo, etc most likely from previous volunteers.

3-5 – Small babies – A rather hectic afternoon for this troop and with the additional visitors, at one point, Star was very anxious and kept attacking one of the new girls. I had to restrain her. Finally, Kim pulled two of the girls out and they rotated one at a time into each of the three pens. Things settled a little, but Star was still too aggressive and really went after Charlotte. Kim came in and intervened. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a calmer day.

I find that every time I intervene, I end up being bit. However, Sara says that we cannot allow bad behavior to continue or it can endanger others. I will continue to ask for support from Francis and Lillith and keep trying to be gentle yet firm with my little charges. As I watch them, they really are so childlike, a group of very athletic 2 years old with the world by the tail. Their expressions are priceless and their manual dexterity amazing. I feel this is great warm up training for my time with the orphans in Romania.

I spent some time blogging that caught me up and have made up my shopping list for the weekly shopping tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29



7:30 – Dogs – This went better today in that I took all three of the dogs up the hill for the half hour, but it wasn’t enough time and I was anxious to get to my next task. I learned after the fact that most of the ladies take each dog for 10 minutes for the 7:30 shift and only bring him or her to the house when they have one of the hour shifts. Next time!

8:00 – Clean up with 2 of the new girls – I had dreamt about this the night before. I was anxious as I had only done parts of this before and here I was with 2 new people to work with. It worked out fine as Sarah was around, but we had some issues with the water and Colin! Kirsten was washing buckets and Colin; the large male baboon came up and pushed her with both his hands. They seem to know if you are new or weak and pick on you. His behavior is becoming more and more of a problem. He even pushed Rita down yesterday, which is almost unheard of as they usually respect her. More about Colin later. I was back in the milk kitchen doing something when Bennet, the head worker came and asked if we had seen the Oliphant! Sure enough, across the river from us was an African Elephant eating from the trees. YAAAAH! ANOTHER GOAL! I can go home now! I wasn’t really close enough get a good look or to see how large he was, but I am sure I will have another opportunity.

9:00–11:00 – Medium babies - This group is very self sufficient for the most part and plays amongst themselves. You may be a pedestal or a launching pad or landing strip for some of the games, but with 15, there is usually at least one on your lap. It is hard for them to really cuddle and sleep as this group has tons of energy.

At one point, I was looking over into Biggest babies pen and there was one laying with all four appendages dangling down and her stomach was support by a canvas strap, similar to a narrow hammock. Very cute. Another time, one of them had stolen a nipple from one of the baby bottles and was sucking on it, with her eyes closed and her head tilted. I asked Kim if there were some “special” individuals in the group. She said yes!

As I exited the pen for my break, Pam asked if anyone could take her place for shopping as she had an unremembered guest arriving. I ended up going which was interesting and easier for me to buy some things that I needed. I missed monitoring today, but I would have anyway as Pam and I have to go together as it is in section 3.

On the way back. Aletheia spotted more elephants in the bush so we stopped to watch, 5 including a smallish baby. We also saw one of the native antelopes, a bush buck, with huge v shaped horns. ABSOUTELY AMAZING!

We got back with all the stuff (16-5 liter jugs of water to name a few of the items) and then sorted them by person. We will sort the money later. I sprang for bottles of hand soap for each of the bathrooms and kitchen.

3:00-4:30 – Small babies – I am beginning realize how fragile their egos are. Nigel is still irritated at me and won’t give me the time of day. When he shoots past in the circuit of play, he is as likely to bite me as to say hello. It sort of hurts my feelings, but it also offers me time to get to know others like Goku and Oros. I have decided to play it cool with Nigel and let him approach me.

Outside of our cage were two female gazelles. I will have to get a book of African wildlife so I can determine the proper names of everything I will see!

4:30 – Ship – This is where a team of three cleans the three hoks for the tinies, smalls and medium babies. With rake, broom and shovel and hose, we take out all the left over food and straw and then wash down the 2 enclosures that have drains. The tinies does not have a drain so we just sweep and shovel in there. All this is being done with the occupants racing around and leaping on your from above. After we have all the stuff gathered, we carry it in buckets around the corner and down and spread it on the ground for the wild troops to pick through.

In the Tinies enclosure there is a gap in the roof cover and the medium pen has a platform above our heads. It is not uncommon to be walking underneath the space and be peed, pooped or barfed on, or have your hair pulled. Some times it is only milk being spilled from one of the bottles. That is when you are lucky.

It was a weird energy day for me again. LET GO LET GO LET GO keeps being my lesson.


Wednesday, August 30

VIBES Card – Take your time.

My laundry day – YAAH! And just in the nick of time. I had rinsed out my pants for the last three days, but they were beginning to have a life of their own.

7:00 Medium Babies – This also includes moving the troop outside and most are very anxious to get out. I was gnawed on by all of them and I have many new scrapes and bites before the morning was out. Today my special friends were Violet, Jane and Basil, a very handsome male. Star from the smalls was being such a pistol to the new girls, that Sara put her in the with mediums. She did one circuit screaming and then launched into my lap and hide under my right arm under my jacket. Occasionally, Kim would call her and she would go to the fence, finish the circuit and then scramble back into my jacket. My understanding is when she was returned to her pen, she was much calmer and nicer to everyone else.

9:00 Crates – Not too bad today, as the crates would have cabbage, carrots, bread, potatoes, apples. My machete technique is getting quite good, but I am still amazed where the blade falls considering where I am focusing.

10:00 Monitoring – We stopped by to see the samango’s again and my goodness, Charlie is handsome.


Their pen is right next to my biggest troop and I properly introduced myself to the sequestered male who had been agitated to see me before. He was friendly and kept showing me his butt. I told him it was a lovely butt and he seemed happy with that. During our time with the troops, Pam pointed out a hole in her pen that would allow the babies to entered one of the sequestered male’s pens. During our time, the workers went in to make the repair.

11-12:00 – Medium Babies – Sara gave them gummy treats! IS SHE HIGH? Why would you give pure sugar to a bunch of ADHD 2 year olds? It was funny to see them grab the treats and stick them in their cheek pouches and then grab more. The little girl I was holding, Jane, is very skittish and keeps getting chased, so she didn’t get any. Sara gave me some to hold back for her. I was pleased that she finally came to me and settled down enough to have her treats. Needless to say, after all that sugar, there was lots of energy and a fair amount of barfing going on. I really feel sorry for the ship people today.

1:00 - Bottles – No dramas here today.

2:00-4:00 – Small Babies – I am making friends with Roxie. She is a medium baby who had been a pet and had been abandoned by her human parents. She had been left chained around the waist and you can still see the band where the chain was. One of her back legs does not work well and she is very anxious and wants to be held a lot. She loves the tinies and is a great Auntie. She has not really have much to do with me, but today came over and finally sat next to me and rested her head on my shoulder. She was very unhappy with me when I had to leave. She has been carrying around little Zorro who is another special baby who does not bond with people especially well. When he does bond, he becomes absolutely hysterical when they leave. Roxie steps in and comforts them. But with her bad back leg and the weight of the baby, she labors around. Finally, I asked her to just settle next to me and keep still and rest, which she did for a while.

4:00 – Bottles – This is very similar to the 7am bottles with extras made for all the outlying cages. The added complication today was that in one of the outlying pens, a baby had managed to get through a hole in the fence and into another troops enclosure. Both troops were going crazy. Sara finally managed to get the baby back to the right troop. As all this is going on, Colin had been sighted and they have two pens rigged to capture him. They don’t want to dart him because once darted he will run and then they may not be able to find him. They will not euthanize him, but want to catch him and then determine if they will relocate him into the wild or keep him in an enclosure.

One of the new groups I came in contact with this afternoon is in the pen that is attached to the medium babies, called the Biggest babies. This troop is considerably bigger, heavier and livelier. 18 of the them and a high platform that they can hide in. By the end of our time, we had 16 bottles and the other two were up in the box on the platform. I was beginning to climb up and get them, but luckily, Pam lured them out and encouraged them to give up their bottles.

5:15 – Carry in the babies – remember all the gummy treats they all got? Did I forget to mention that the troops diet changes daily due to the availability of certain foods? Did I mention that today we began feeding red peppers? Can you guess what ended up all of my left leg as I was carrying Violet inside? Correct in one, diarrhea all down my left leg. Thank God I was cooking tonight because it means that I get the shower first!

Cook Dinner – Chili and chips – We have a cabinet full of flavored powdered soya products and I tested the chili one for lunch. It was fine so I add lots of bean, onions, and peppers and with sour cream and tortilla chips, it was almost like my chili at home.

I feel much calmer and more into this placement.

Thursday, August 31


7:00 bottles - So much to do early in the day and as we were delivering the first shift of babies to the outside pens, Bennett told Sara that most of the other staff has quit as yesterday was pay day. Not great news, but with the volunteers, we should be able to get all the feeding done at least for today. One of the things that was new for me today was I had to cut up a bucket of food for Stevie. I thought he was blind, but I went to help Catarina by distracting him as she tried to get food in the door to him. I finally ended up feeding him a bottle through the cage to keep him occupied. He was so pissed when the food finally made it inside and barked at me. I told him that I hadn’t lied to him; he did get some of the bottle. My animal communication skills still need work.

Naked Guy used to receive medicine in the milk and still gets one bottle a day. He is even more handsome up close.

I had about 40 minutes of a break and took a cup of tea up to the upper deck and looked at the landscape and thought about how I was in AFRICA and feeling at peace with the world and myself. I find that I am stronger than I imagined I would be, but I can’t quite say how. I am amazed how I can be patient with these small creatures as they landed on my exposed stomach or head and pull my hair. I remember in the past when I was holding a human baby, if they grabbed at me and pinched, I would loose it. I really believe that this placement will help prepare me for Romania and the orphans. I watch them and they have so many traits that could be compared to human; their little egos, alliances and friendships, misunderstandings and makeup’s and physically, working through issues and problem solving solutions. They are a miracle and I am so pleased that I am here.

9:00-11:00 – Small Babies – I think I have discovered the pattern and the solution to making it through the day without a melt down with one of my little friends resulting in me getting bit. First thing in the morning, they are all working through the hierarchy including with the volunteers and that means some good-natured hello bites or tastes as they rush past. By not making is mean something, the day is much better for me and them. With this new realization, Nigel is back as my friend and as long as I wait for him to approach, which is usually later in the day, we are back to grooming and having a little cuddle. He is usually too busy playing and trying to be big in the morning to have time in his schedule for a cuddle. I am content to wait and let him dictate the pace. (Not bad, I have at least identified this lesson within one week of arriving!)

Roxie came over and had a little sleep on me. As I held her, I just cried as I thought about her previous abuse and her ability to trust again and to allow us in to her world.

Noon – Monitoring with Pam – Stopped by and said Hi to Charlie, the Samango, who is still incredibly handsome. Sindle troop was doing well today and they are fun to watch. I spent the rest of the time with Bip Bop troop and tried to recognize the key players. They were all eating when I arrived, so not much activity. It is a great time to determine seniority as the dominant animals eat first and the lower ranked wait until they are finished.

1:00-2:00 – Medium Babies – this group was slowing down for the day, and again, Star from the Small babies was banished to the Mediums to work on her getting along with others skills. She still screeched and spent the majority of her time in my lap. I spoke to her and told her this was her own doing. It was her choice to behave in her pen, or to come into this larger pen with the bigger babies. Sara said I should not baby her too much as she had to learn to make her way. She really was doing much better by the time Rita came up to the pen. Star had one more tiff and screamed which upset Rita and she said that we were not to change things without letting her know. (We had not done anything that Lee and Sara were unaware of, but she must have forgotten that she had been told about the possible switch the day before). I took Star back into smalls as I exited the pen.

I spent a half hour in the tinies pen to try and get them accustomed to me. As long as one of the surrogate mothers was in the pen, Icarus and Tortilla are happy to have me and they would count coo on me by running up, lip smacking, touching my foot or leg and then run away. Lynn, one of the newest surrogate mothers told me it took her three weeks to have them used to her. Good, I should be in like Flint in two more weeks.

I ended up going into Small babies at 2:00 because I offered to cover Pam in Smalls as she had not had a break earlier in the day. As Aletheia was arriving with the 2:00 pm bottles, she noticed Colin hanging around. She managed to lure him into the air lock around the biggest babies pen and he was captured. He was darted and will most likely live out his life in an enclosure at the center. He is not afraid enough of humans, in fact he is down right aggressive, to be releasable.
When Lee returns from Jburg, I think the decision will be made. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we had begun to move in groups and carry a stick wherever we went. Colin is incredibly smart and knew the schedule better than the volunteers, including the times and routes that we would take with bottles or buckets of food.

3:00-5:00 – Small Babies – I spent another hour in the tinies to give them more face time. At one point, in the medium pen, Alice, the pickpocket, had stolen the flip-flop from one of the new volunteers and would not give it back. (What anyone would be doing in flip-flops in these pens with the poo, dirt and the little fingers, I cannot imagine!) I spent time banging on the floor of the alcove above the tinies pen to try and get her to go back into the main pen where she could be caught and the shoe retrieved. When it was finally retrieved she was furious and shouted at all of us. Boy, They do not like being thwarted!

The wind was up and I had been peed on several times and I was getting cold. Luckily, Goku took a nap on my chest, which warmed me up. I am now able to recognize the alarm call, which is usually a single bark like sound. It is usually followed immediately by 5 small babies arriving on your lap, head or your waist. Alarm calls are not specific and the troops first inclination is to climb as high as possible, which usually means you!

After the Goku nap, finally Roxie can back by for another cuddle and nap. She has been mothering two of the little guys Mr. Stubbs and Zorro and she will be penned overnight with them from now on. Her back leg seems to be getting worse, which may be a function of her being more active in the Small Babies pen then she was in the Medium pen. My understanding is that she will be going to the vet for an X-ray on her hips. Not sure when that will happen.

Friday, September 1 – Week one anniversary.

Today is the start of week two for me. I find that I am becoming more tired and finding 6:15 a little early these days. I end up waking up during the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep.


7:15 – Unload truck – I had assumed that this meant a feed truck was coming, but it was unloading Lee’s truck who had returned from Jburg the prior evening. She had taken a wild baboon in for cataract surgery. She had brought back lots of milk powder, dog food, t-shirts and assorted treats for the baboons. As two of the new girls and I began to pile in the stuff in the world’s oldest and heaviest wheelbarrow, we were accosted by baboons who made off with one bag of dog food. At that point, we loaded our arms instead of the wheelbarrow and toted the stuff to the kitchen. The milk powder was very heavy, so Lee ended up moving the truck a little closer to the kitchen. The two girls were a little slow to jump in, so I took on the task of job assignments. I realized after the fact that I had the directions for Lee about what needed to happen and had neglected to explain the plan properly to the crew. I apologized to them once I had realized my non-communication. We finally had it done just before 9:00.

9:00-10:00- Medium Babies – no dramas, no fights, no screaming and no visitation by Star from the Smalls.

10-Noon – Feed – I had been assigned to help with the feeding of the enclosures with the lack of staff, but Sara canceled it. Apparently, there were enough people to handle it. So I had two hours on my hands. I decided to work on my monitoring logbooks to try and get a handle on my bigger troop. Aletheia found me reading and asked if I would like to accompany her to he river to take pictures. It was my first time to go to the river and in the middle of the day, there wasn’t much wildlife to be seen. I know that the next time I go, I will take not only my camera but also my binoculars.

1:00-3:00 – Small Babies – Again, no dramas, no major fights, not much screaming and no bites for Kirsten who had had a run-in with Star earlier in the day. The funniest things that happened was that Roxie, our surrogate Auntie, during an alarm call, dropped her young charge, Zorro, head first into the water trough. He came up sputtering and finally screaming until she retrieved and comforted him. Not a very good Auntie to jettison your charge during an emergency - (rather like a kangaroo mum!)

Roxie and zorro.JPG
3:30-4:30 – Monitor- Nothing new to report, except that I finally got to sit and observe my larger troop and work out who was who. They still have lots of places that I can’t see if I sit, but if I move around, I get a pretty good view of everyone.

4:30 – Ship – Not one of my most favorite tasks, as we have to clean the three hoks and two of them still have inhabitants as we are trying to clean. Not the most efficient way to work, but we got it done.

We had been told to keep a look out for a young sub-adult female who was carrying a tiny baby. It appears that the mom must have died and the sister or aunt is carrying it around. The “new” mother does not have milk for the baby and if we cannot locate her and get her into custody, the baby will die. The other dilemma is that the “new” mother will most likely shriek when we take away the baby, which will cause the entire troop to descend in support of the screecher. No sign of her by the end of the day.

As I looked at my schedule for tomorrow, I have been designated as housemaster for the week. This means that I follow up on the four areas of the house that are to cleaned daily. I will also be working to clean up the shower area and distribute or get rid of all the extraneous clothing on the clothesline during the weekend.

Both Saturday and Sunday, we will be light two people, as they will be taking a daylong visit to Kruger Park. I will also be doing this on one of my weekends. I look forward to the trip away from the center as I will be in clean clothes and won’t have to wear my contacts for day.

Saturday, September 2


7:00 – Bottles – I got to feed Naked Man today, who is one of my favorite guys. As you may remember, he has a condition and has lost all of his hair, which makes him appear very chiseled and lean. Very Handsome.

7:45-9:00 – Small babies – The early shift finds them interested in letting off steam, playing an eating, but Nigel came over at one point for a little grooming.

9:00- Crates – Easy today with only apples and sweet potatoes to handle.

10:00 Monitoring – Remember yesterday when I was scheduled for feeding but it was cancelled? Well, today I was not scheduled for feeding but they needed us, so I carried crates and stuffed food through the holes in the cages for the individual animals. Sara did not want everyone to do it as the males are very unpredictable and one volunteer was silly enough to put his entire hand through the opening and ended up with plastic surgery on his thumb. It was exhausting in the heat and hard on my wrists. By the end, I got some electrolytes and rested until my next shift.


12-1:00 – Medium babies – At one point, all the babies where at my side of the fence looking out at something, that I could not see. Finally, I turned to see what they were watching and it turned out to be a 12-inch long snake, silver and moving away from the cage. One of the guys was passing and I asked him to handle it. He killed it and when I asked what kind it was, he said dangerous. Later, Lee said that she would not have killed it and moved it into the bush. The African’s assume each snake is a bad one and don’t give it the benefit of the doubt.

2:00-3:00 – Dogs – I brought all the dogs up to the house and spent the time organizing the pantry, ready for additional rat proof containers. Lots of rat poop!

3:00-5:00 – Small babies – I was pulled early out of this in order to help with 4pm bottles. During the bottles, I got to feed more of the adult’s bottles through the bars. They are very sweet, but I am not sure why such large animals are still getting milk.

I am finally in the swing of this place, but understand why some of the people that are leaving soon and counting down the days. The work is alternately physically difficult and there are inconsistencies of preparedness and procedures that can be frustrating at times. I can also see why this place gets into your blood, because the babies are delightful, except for the biting, and how it can consume your entire life.

The ladies that went to Kruger today saw lots of elephants, giraffes, impalas and hoofed species, hippos, zebras but no carnivores. I am looking forward to the time that I will get to go, especially as it will be a day with no contacts!

My contacts are really working better than I expected even without sunglasses, but my eyes are tired and I feel that I look exhausted. HMMMM?

I found by the end of the day that my right wrist was feeling jammed again. My masculine side again and I find that when others under do, I overdo. It was probably a combination of carrying four crates at one time and the tug-a-war with the baboons in the largest enclosure for the turquoise shirt. I will learn eventually to let it flow and let it go.

Sunday, September 3

It was lovely to be able to lie in for another hour and have the house essentially to myself before I went off to clean up. I took a cup of tea up to my room to get ready. I went off to my first assignment feeling refreshed and balanced.

We were down Pam today as she accompanied Lee to the release site to retrieve one of the females. The baboon is not with the pack and is therefore not being groomed and finding food on her own. She keeps coming back to the two people who are monitoring the troop. If she does not stay with the troop, she will die, therefore they will retrieve her.

8:00 - Clean up - It went much easier today with three of us and we were even finished early.

9:00 – Medium Babies – I realized today that I prefer these babies in the afternoon after they have gotten rid of most of their extra energy.

10:00 – Feed – Frustrating and hot again without sufficient people to get it done in an hour. One of our feeders had diarrhea and had to leave for at least half of the shift. We finally called in Aletheia to take up the slack and she could carry and feed which helped us tremendously.

11:00 – 1:00 – Small Babies – I was 20 minutes late for this shift but I had a wonderful time with the little guys. They are my favorite and I know them all and their little personalities. Even Star is coming up and getting hugs and cuddles and is nicer to everyone in the pen.

2:00 – 3:00 – Medium Babies – Another anxious hour with the whirling dervishes and one with a piece of glass in his mouth. At one point, I was frustrated with 4 on my head or hanging on my hair and I abruptly stood up and dumped the one in my lap rather hard on the deck. Poor baby! The piece of glass finally ended up in Caley’s mouth, and I finally managed to get it out of her.

3:00-4:00 – Monitor – without Pam as she was going on a pick up from the release site.

I went around to my monitoring spot and checked in with Sindle troop, with the yellow baboons and then on to Bip Bop. Almost immediately, I thought I saw a new baby in the pen. I kept counting the ever-moving assortment of heads and finally came up with 17 twice in a row. I consulted my list and sure enough, two days ago it was only 16. This is the troop that I don’t have as good a handle on and it took me a while to determine which female it was. From the previous person’s notes, it appeared that Eye’s Mom was pregnant. I had done a swelling assessment on each pen two days ago to try and get a better feel for the females. As I have had a difficult time seeing each of them daily, I am finally going on vaginal swelling size to determine who is who. Sure enough, it was Eye’s Mom. I AM AN AUNTIE! I get to name the baby, but I don’t want to rush into just any name. I wanted to quickly go and tell Sarah about the baby, but I had just started my shift. So I took notes for 55 minutes and then rushed back to the milk kitchen. Sarah and I went back out to the pen and she said due to the presence of the umbilical cord, the baby was most likely born late last night or early this morning.

Button and Eye's Mom.JPG

Charlotte and I were cooking dinner and we took the beans left over from last night and made baked potatoes. Simple and early dinner. Just as well, I am pooped and want to sleep.

Posted by ladyjanes 09:11 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards

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