The summer of 2020 has been one of the most challenging ones as far as I can remember. While I was gulping down watermelons and scrolling through Instagram, I came across a few people who were out there helping those in need. I don’t mean the frontline warriors like doctors and policemen, but people like you and me – unsure how to go about the lockdown or the virus itself.
Meet Praneetha, a humble girl from Mysore who pours her heart out for animals. Like I said, while I was complaining about the lockdown and the summer heat, Praneetha’s Instagram feed was filling up with stories of animal rescues she was helping with. For one, she took a permit pass from the local authorities and headed out to highways and remote areas to feed the stray dogs. As human activity dropped all of a sudden, these dogs were out there without food. And lo! Praneetha to the rescue!
The Monkey Business
If you open her Instagram feed, you’ll see a surplus of animal posts – all of which she’s come in close contact with. The most interesting and curious among them was a monkey. Her home in Mysore was frequently visited by a couple of monkeys and she had continually observed them. But one day, she was in for a surprise when these monkeys brought in another younger one tagging along. The most evident observation she noticed was a reddish-orange object, which was later confirmed to be plastic. More importantly, Praneetha observed that the young monkey was quite comfortable with humans around, which shouldn’t be the case with wild animals.
Now Praneetha was stuck in a situation she wasn’t sure how to go about. And let me tell you – she’s done plenty of rescues for over a decade, involving wildlife and other domesticated animals like dogs from breeders. But faced with a challenge from a wild monkey with an alien object stuck in his mouth, she didn’t know what to do. The lockdown and the deadly virus were making things even more difficult. But after much discussion and encouragement from her peers and educators, Praneetha ventured into her first wild primate rescue operation!
The Rescue Operation
Once the decision was done, she had a herculean task ahead of her. The process would be something like getting the monkey inside, put him in a cage, take him to the vet, operate and remove the alien object stuck in his mouth, keep him under observation till his stitches heal and can be removed, and then let him go back in the wild.
If it were only so simple!
But Praneetha knew she was doing the right thing, no matter how hard it was going to be. “He held my hand and it was nothing like I’ve experienced. It was the first contact and it symbolized trust. He trusted me, and that mattered a lot,” she tells me. From there, with the help of her mother, Praneetha managed to get him inside her home (another tiring and gigantic task) and finally into the cage.
Throughout this, she was beginning to understand how intelligent the monkey was. Naturally, he was reluctant to go to the vet Dr. Madan (who happened to be the vet at Mysore Zoo) and the car ride was terrifying for him. The operation revealed that it was a toothbrush-cap that was stuck in his mouth. Operated at the right time, the vets discovered that his muscles were beginning to decay. Finally done, the operation was finished with 25 stitches.
The Real Monkey Business!
While it may seem like a relief to get the plastic out of his mouth, the real trouble begins now! We know that stitches are important and shouldn’t be ruptured. And of course, you should take your pills. But how do you tell that to a monkey? A really smart monkey at that! This was probably where Praneetha was beginning to learn more and more about her new rescue.
The monkey was under Praneetha’s care for 19 days and everything she had learned in theory was being applied practically here. While she knew monkeys are smart, she was physically seeing it and living with that smartness! A lot of things happened during those 19 days, including tearing of his stitches, outsmarting her multiple times, not taking in medicines – well, the list continues.
Among her observations, Praneetha also recognized some behavior traits that made her suspect that this monkey might have been captured and trained by humans. For one, he kept doing summersaults, which is commonly noticed in such captive monkeys. She also observed how he’d hold out his bowl and tug at her clothes, as though he was begging. She tells me that such monkeys are often picked up young, where captors kill the mother and take the monkey.
“I also noticed that his pinky toe was cut off – another indication that he was under monkey trainers,” she explained. At this point, I could understand how she might be feeling having rescued a wild monkey who’d found himself under inhuman trainers. “It’s a dilemma, you know,” Praneetha says. “He knows he’s a wild animal, but he’s made to believe that he’s a pet.”
Let It Go
It’s very important not to humanize animals, especially wild animals. “Elephants aren’t meant to be tied in chains in temples. And monkeys are certainly not for summersault entertainment,” she cites with rising anger. And this is also where rescue becomes so important. Rescuing and rehabilitating animals has a thin line of trust – where the animal trusts you enough to know you won’t harm them but shouldn’t be comfortable to come back or go to other humans, she elaborates.
After 19 days and complete recovery, Praneetha prepares to let the monkey go, to where he really belongs. “It’s very important that you never relocate an animal and release him at the exact same spot where you had picked him up,” she explains the rules of rescue. “It was a Sunday. We simply opened the cage and he jumped on the compound. He paused for a brief second, and then he was gone,” she recalls. I could sense the emotions toying around in her voice and asked if he came back. “He did. He came with the troop a few days after that. They weren’t growling and it felt like a thanksgiving visit!” she says.
The summer of 2020 is something we’ll never forget. But for Praneetha, it was a life-changing experience. From her initial dilemma, her first wild primate rescue has been a learning curve like no other. Her experience has brought her a step closer to animal welfare and wildlife conservation, something we desperately need in today’s chaotic world.