Monkey rescuer says metro cops stormed into her home and assaulted her
By Tanya Waterworth 9m ago
Share this article:
Durban – Primate rescue and rehabilitation centres around the world have been on high alert since the emergence of Covid-19 because monkeys could catch the virus and pass it on, which would exacerbate the spread and possible mutations.
Co-founder of Monkey Helpline, the well-known monkey sanctuary in Durban, Carol Booth said the behaviour of metro cops who stormed into her home last Saturday without so much as a knock on the door, also put the tiny baby monkeys she was trying to save, at risk.
After spending years helping traumatised animals in and around Durban – and often distressed humans – Booth said the incident during which she alleged a metro cop assaulted her in the face, has left her traumatised. eThekwini Metro confirmed yesterday that the incident was currently under investigation.
Rescued baby monkeys are taken to Booth's Westville home, before being moved to the Monkey Helpline Primate Rehabilitation and Sanctuary Centre at the Mayibuye Game Reserve in Camperdown, which is run by her partner, Steve Smit, and herself.
"Because of Covid-19, primate organisations are on a very strict lockdown, and if we have any rescued monkeys in our home which are going to be transferred to the centre, they are kept in a separate room, and only I attend to them. We also do not want to humanise them as our goal is to release them back into the wild.
"We have to sanitise regularly during the day. During lockdown, our children have not even been allowed to have friends over because we have had to be so strict.
"So I was shocked when a man and woman just walked into our house. I was preparing bottles in the kitchen for the baby monkeys, I was in my own home, so I did not have a mask on. This man had his phone out and was taking pictures. Neither of them identified themselves.
"I told him he was scaring the animals and asked if we could speak outside. The female officer moved back. I asked the male officer if he had a warrant, and he said he did not need a warrant. I put my hand up to stop him taking photos, and he punched me in the face, it was like a push punch, and it left my face numb.
"I said 'you're a policeman, and you are hitting a woman'. He replied, ’shut up white woman or I will arrest you'. He kept threatening to arrest me, and had his hand on his weapon," said Booth, adding that her daughter witnessed the incident.
Soon after that, Booth said her partner Steve Smit, arrived and he showed the officers around the property, including the empty cages as monkeys are not kept there, but are transferred to the centre where they are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild.
Booth said a senior officer, an older white male, also then arrived at the scene and he was not wearing a mask.
"He was right up close and started shouting at me, right into my face. He had a black bandanna around his neck, and I asked him to please pull it up," said Booth.
She added that as far as they could ascertain, a complaint from a neighbour had been received two weeks prior to the officers arriving at her house.
"We are a rescue organisation. We are not 'keeping or hoarding' animals in our home.
"The monkeys are brought in and then we take them to the centre as soon as we can, while the orphaned babies are here while I feed them until they can be moved," said Booth.
She confirmed she had filed an incident report at the Westville Police Station and had consulted with a lawyer. She is considering advice on laying criminal charges.
"We operate a 24-hour helpline, and we have calls all hours of the day and night from monkeys to snakes, cats and dogs and even people having relationship problems, and we refer these calls to the correct organisations.
"We have always worked so well with metro (police) in the past and have often been called out by their officers in the early hours of the morning to help with an injured monkey.
"In South Africa, we don't have many places which are safe, so your home is your safe place.
"But after what has happened, I don't feel like that anymore. I feel anxious, even if I hear a noise at the gate," said Booth, who confirmed she had seen a trauma counsellor this week.
Yesterday, eThekwini Metro spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersadh, said the matter had been reported to them, and it was being investigated by the city's internal investigation department.
"We are awaiting feedback," he said.
The Independent on Saturday