Bob & Lynne Venter
Directors and Founders
During the beginning of 1992, Bob Venter saved a monkey from certain death when an individual, who had shot its mother the previous day, wanted to kill the baby by slamming it against a brick wall. Bob intervened and took custody of the baby monkey who was only a few days old. He attempted to press charges against the individual for cruelty to animals. However, he was advised by the animal welfare organisations and conservation authorities that monkeys, in addition to a further four species, were considered vermin. These ‘problem animals’ were judged to be pests that should be destroyed.
At this time the law clearly stated that it was an offence for a person to care for, sympathise with, keep, trade, present as a gift, or interfere when another individual was in the process of destroying any of the listed five species of ‘problem animals’.
The authorities pressed charges against Bob for saving the life of the baby monkey resulting in a court hearing. It took nine months for the case to get to court where the presiding Judge ruled that the monkey deserved the right to life and should undergo rehabilitation.
Unfortunately no real primate rehabilitation existed at this time, so Bob established a scientific primate rehabilitation centre at another location in Polokwane and Tzaneen. During 1994-95 Lynne and Matthew join hands with Bob and they moved the centre to Riverside, Letsitele.
Bob, Lynne and Matthew chose to dedicate their lives to this cause and when they moved to Riverside it was just a barren piece of land with no infrastructure at all. They built everything themselves and also managed all the monkeys and other wildlife species that came in for care.
During 2002, Bob and Lynne decided to share their passion with others, and the volunteer programme was born. The volunteer programme became a hugely positive influence on the future of Riverside, enabling the centre to expand with investment in new facilities, allowing for more animals-in-need to benefit from the actual hands-on caring they receive while under rehabilitation.
The Venter family believe that every volunteer who has worked and cared for the animals at the centre would become true ambassadors for them in their countries of origin.
It has been a long and challenging road with many obstacles which the Venter family have overcome and they are now recognized as true legitimate primate rehabilitators with the highest standards globally.
Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is the only centre that has a successful rehabilitation programme with the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Many countries globally are using these standards in their respective conservation programmes.
To date Riverside has rehabilitated and successfully reintroduced 17 troops of Vervet monkeys, 1 troop of Chacma baboons, close to 100 bush babies, and a multitude of other mammal, bird and reptile species back into their native habitats.
The centre is divided into a number of disciplines in which volunteers assist, namely: baby cage (baboons and Vervet monkeys), clinic, quarantine, food preparation areas, introduction and rehabilitation enclosures.
In most of the above, hands-on care and dedicated work is required except in the large, semi-wild rehabilitation enclosures. Hands-on means that volunteers physically interact closely with the animals in their care. Riverside is the only wildlife rehabilitation centre in the world where volunteers get the opportunity to experience all five South African indigenous primate species, namely: Chacma baboons, Vervet and Samango monkeys, Lesser Bushbabies and Thick-Tailed Bushbabies. Riverside makes use of natural vegetation enclosures in which the animals are conditioned to be returned to the wild.
Volunteering at Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre requires total commitment and dedication to fully understand and appreciate the rehabilitation process that is essential to ensure the survival of these indigenous species. If you share Riverside’s passion for wildlife and for rehabilitation, then you are guaranteed to enjoy a thoroughly rewarding experience with like-minded volunteers; working closely with all the animals at the centre that need your time, care, love and attention.