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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Sheedy

Bush Mafia and Bats

The other day I heard Toni talking to some guests that were checking in, “we have little Vervet monkeys here,” he said, showing them with his hands how small they were, “so make sure that you don’t leave your doors open, or leave any food visible”. He made them sound so sweet, so cute, and so innocent…

These “little” guys may be cute, but boy are they anything but innocent.

Gramps loves to give everything a personalised name, including wildlife… here are a few of his terms below :

Stink Asem – Directly translates to stinky breath – A Hyena

Spyker Neus –Directly translates to needle nose – A rhino

Oom Paul’s sê skape – Uncle Paul’s sheep (That would be Paul Kruger, who was president of South Africa, and who the Kruger National Park was named after) – An Impala

And then of course those little vervet monkeys he has named – The Bush Mafia. I am sure you don’t need me to translate that for you. The name is well suited, for they are just that, the organised crime syndicate of the bush. They all sit together in a tree, watching and waiting for the perfect moment when someone forgets to close the door or the window and then they make their move and knock you off.

Since I’ve moved here, I mainly keep my doors and windows closed for the simple reason that I don’t want any unwanted visitors coming in… especially snakes and mosquitoes. But from time to time, when Toni is on his missions, he’ll come in one door, forget to close it, and then leave through another.

The other day, I was taking a shower, and we have a big curtain that separates the shower area from our bedroom (Our little bush house, used to be a chalet that was rented by guests, before my grandparents gave it to us). As I got out the shower, I saw through a tiny gap in the curtain, a very long grey tail coming past. I realised I was about to be knocked off by the bush mafia, I quickly wrapped a towel around myself and grabbed my brush as my weapon of defense and chased the little bugger all the way outside, where I then threw my brush at him, while giving him a piece of my mind. The staff who were walking past at the time were all staring at me in total shock. The monkey only got away with one banana, thankfully.

Usually after they knock you off they go and sit in the trees in front of the reception, and elevate themselves to the company position of branch manager, as my Gramps likes to say.

Grammy and Gramps seem to have grown so accustomed to the life of the bush, that they never seem to close their doors during the day and as a result, the monkeys are forever stealing them blind. Especially the freshly baked breads which gramps loves to make and of course all of their fruit. On a few occasions, they have cornered the monkeys in the house, without even meaning too and they have made a giant mess everywhere. You’d think that now that we have a Bella Lump (Our Bulldog pup), this sort of crime would stop, but the bush mafia see it as a new challenge, and they still manage to get past her.

Grammy always used to have the best litchis on the property. I remember in December when I used to visit during school holidays, we’d pick a massive bucket, sit by the pool and peel them, rinse them off and then eat as many as we could until we felt positively sick… Those were the best times, but not anymore, because the bush mafia, who are completely impatient get to them before they are even ripe.

During our last litchi season Grammy woke up early knowing that she’d probably catch the bush mafia stealing her litchis again. So in her shorty pajamas and equipped with a massive stick that she uses to clean the roofs, she went to patrol the area around the litchis, and when she arrived she caught the bush mafia in the act.

Grammy then chased the monkeys all the way to the corner of the property, with her big stick, giving them a mouthful as she went. They jumped over the fence, and in to the park. When she looked up she saw a hoard of people all leaned over the Crocodile Bridge Gate staring at her in total shock. They had obviously been waiting for the gate to open so they could go in to the park, but never in their wildest dreams did they imagine to find a crazy woman in skimpy pajamas chasing a troop of monkeys down the road, with a big stick in hand.

Our international guests, who are of course not used to having to deal with such problems, often forget their doors or windows open. The other day we had guests go in to the park, and when they came back their chalet was completely ransacked. The monkeys had stolen all of their food and had left a terrible mess in the process. When the guests returned they came to report this to us, and told us that the monkeys had eaten their medication and used their toilet. We tried to explain that monkeys don’t use toilets, but they insisted this was the case. We apologised on account of our badly behaved “pets” and sent someone to clean up the mess. Grammy also ended up having to reimburse them for their lost meds.

The problem with our monkeys, is when they knock you off, it’s not like they take what they feel like, and eat it all. They take a bite here and leave apiece there. They just do tasters, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be food.

Toni and I went for a walk the other day, and found a tube of baby cream outside one of the log cabins. Upon closer inspection, we saw that the monkeys had been through their trash and got in through the bathroom window which had been left open. We went in to the cabin, as the guests were in the park, and the place was in a bad state. The bush mafia had got in to their hot cross buns; opened the chips and sweets, got in to their toiletries, and cracked open every single egg, which now lay all over the floor. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking that I should’ve taken a photo for proof, but it really was an absolute mess. Again, we had to apologise profusely on behalf our badly behaved “pets”.

Toni asked the staff to bring him some sugarcane the other day (It is absolutely delicious to bite off and chew), I told him in no uncertain terms that, that big stick of sugarcane was not to come inside the house, so he left it on our patio.

The next morning I woke up to find the whole family of bush mafia sitting on our patio, eating his sugarcane. We have a glass sliding door that leads on to the patio, so I sat behind the door right next to the monkeys and watched them enjoying their sweet treat. They were fascinating to watch, and they didn’t care a bit that I was there until Tom (My 18 year old, giant and very gorgeous cat) came to lie next to me. Even in Tom’s old age he is fearless, and the monkeys are terrified of him – I think they think, he is a small leopard. They would stretch their necks out to check him out, and when he’d move they’d quickly hide behind the corner before coming back again to snack on the sugarcane.

Even with all of their antics, and no matter how much of a pest they can be, I have grown rather fond of them. They often come and sit outside my bedroom window, and stare at me, before they jump the fence to the neighbors. They love to climb all over the golf cart and our cars, when they think no one is looking.

Sometimes I catch them following me when I go on my walks. They have a favourite tree just next to our unit 8, which offers great views of the Crocodile River and Kruger Park. They like foraging for food, and playing below the big tree. They recently had babies, at which time they disappeared for a while and then returned with the cutest, tiniest little infants. Gramps says they disappear for like a month and then come back with the next generation of criminals to raise. Since then the babies have grown quite a bit, and have turned in to real comics. I sit for ages watching them, jumping from tree to tree, play fighting with each other and doing somersaults over the wooden fence in front of our home. They are rather acrobatic.

The vervets aren’t our only badly behaved pets. We also have fruit bats. When I first moved here, we had a lovely patio with a table and chairs where we would sit in the evenings and braai. At some point last year, we lent the table and chairs to Grammy and Gramps when we had a big group of family coming for dinner. Before I knew it, a family of bats had moved in and they would make such a mess on the patio floor, that it wasn’t even worth putting the tables and chairs back. I’ve thought of ways to get them to move, but as time has gone on they have begun to multiply, the last I counted there are now 15 of them living up there, if you approach slowly and then quietly look up there you’ll see a whole lot of beady eyes staring at you, and some of the mommies have pups. When you get a good look at them, they are actually so adorable.

I have to pass the patio, to go to my car, and if you walk too loudly or too closely, you startle the bat family and they all swoop down and dive bomb you in an attempt to make way for safety of the trees above Grammy and Gramps’ house. This happened to me once, and one of them actually flew right in to my hand- it’s rather painful when one of these little guys flies in to you at full speed.

On another occasion one of them flew straight on to gramps’ mouth, he says they are soft like a “powder puff” – I had to laugh. I have become a pro now though, if I walk around the patio and they decide to fly out, I stop and drop to the floor immediately, and wait for them to all fly overhead.

Gramps was once accused by a guest of having puppies that he was abusing, but actually it was our fruit bats making their high pitched squeeks and sqwuaks while trying to communicate with their pups. The more gramps tried to tell the lady this wasn’t the case, the more she would not believe him.

Our house is attached to the reception; so that Toni can deal with all the late check in’s and requests that our guests may have in the evenings. Although we do have a small no entry sign just past the reception area, so we can have a certain amount of privacy, It seems that not many guests see it, and often park on the grass in front of our house, or take a stroll past our home. Often I also find them with their face pressed up against my glass sliding door staring at Tom, who usually sleeps next to the door in the sun. I understand that he is beautiful, so often I find them also taking photos of him. He may possibly be the most photographed cat in the Lowveld.

One day, I wasn’t feeling too great, and was having a little lie down on my bed, when a guest and his child walked past the side of my house and on to my patio. Before I even had a chance to warn them about my bats, I opened the door and saw all of the bats dive-bombing these poor people. I couldn’t resist, and said, “Oh, so sorry are you ok? My badly behaved pets, what can I say” and shook my head. The look of horror on this mans face was priceless, as he took his child and headed back to the reception area with a dash of speed.

Elephant Walk Retreat may be our home, but it is also home to many little animals, and we love to be able to share it with them. We have learned to co exist with them; after all, they have as much of a right to be here as we do.


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