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Digital Subscriptions > Vegan Food & Living Magazine > Get set for Christmas - Nov 2019 > Women who dedicate their lives to primates

Women who dedicate their lives to primates

By Unbound’s Kelly Guerin, Jo-Anne McArthur, Corinne Benedict, Sayara Thurston and Kate Fowler

WOMEN on the frontline of ANIMAL ADVOCACY PART 3

The Unbound Project – a documentary by acclaimed photographer Jo-Anne McArthur – reports on three women helping save primates around the world.

Josie and the Vervets

Every morning at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in Tzaneen, South Africa, Josie Du Toit is out of bed before 6am and doesn’t finish work until she gets back into bed at night. In between, her days are filled with bottlefeeding baby vervets, supervising medication and medical care, directing staff , delegating, organising, and making many rounds of the sanctuary to check on the hundreds of individuals in her care. Vervets are considered vermin in South Africa, making orphaned and injured monkeys a common occurrence, with few people willing to care for them.

It was purely by chance that Du Toit, who was born and raised in England, found her way to the Foundation but once she had, it was inevitable she would make it her life.

She had been passionate about animal issues from a young age. Brought up vegetarian, she later studied animal care, and eventually worked as a veterinary technical advisor. It seemed to fulfil her and yet, after four years, she found herself hungry for new experiences and researching online for other opportunities. She came across the Vervet Monkey Foundation’s volunteer program and her interest was piqued.

While the living conditions at the sanctuary would daunt many people, Du Toit knew this was absolutely right for her. “It was vegetarian and very basic living, with no electricity. Volunteers were housed in tents; this was bush living and I thought, this sounds amazing.”

Her boss agreed to her taking time off on one condition: that she came back. But that first month turned out to be the best time of her life and she soon accepted a full-time job at the Foundation. She sold her house and relocated, taking her dog Reuben back with her.

Two years later, a painful condition called fibromyalgia led Du Toit to try veganism. “It was like a lightbulb moment like, what on earth am I doing? How did I not see that?” Within six months of being vegan, her health had dramatically improved and she came off all her medication. Today, the Vervet Monkey Foundation’s kitchen is fully plant-based.

Rescuing vervets is just half the story. One of the sanctuary’s missions is to keep them as wild as possible. “That’s what I believe rehabilitation should be about,” says Du Toit. “Getting these animals well and as happy as they can be back with their troop so they can have a real family in the wild.” Her ultimate plan is ambitious: to create The Vervet Forest, a protected area where the rehabilitated monkeys can be safe. “We don’t want it just to be a release site. The vervets help to repopulate the trees as well… We’d like to see everything thrive with them.

“We’d like to run workshops on humanwildlife conflict, off er veterinary courses, primate courses. We’d like to educate people about reducing their carbon footprint and how can they do something to protect the environment, as well as animals.’ She laughs, but she is utterly serious. “That’s the big vision.”

Kari and the Capuchins

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About Vegan Food & Living Magazine

It's never too early to start planning for Christmas if you want the day to go as smoothly as possible, so this issue we've got a whole range of recipes for main courses, sweet treats and even edible gifts to get you started. Trying to stick to a budget this festive period? We've also got 9 tips for hosting a great Christmas without having to spend lots. Also this issue, we share some delicious 30-minute meals, cook up ideas for a delicious Boxing Day brunch and take a lesson from Italian nonnas in how to cook up the best pasta dishes. Plus we've got the final part in our Women on the Frontline of Animal Advocacy series, explore how environmentally sustainable your vegan diet is and reveal how to deal with difficult situations and conversations with non-vegans this Christmas.