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-A Rough Start To A Bright Future-

From Rescue, To Rehabilitation, To Release

In December, 2011, at just two weeks old, this little baboon was brought to Riverside. His mother had been killed, and both of his arms wounded with the same gunshot.

It was unknown initially whether his right arm could be saved. The extent of his injuries can be seen on the right, and whilst these images are upsetting and graphic, they demonstrate the cruelty faced by primates in South Africa. This baby was named ‘Rocky' as he was a real fighter when overcoming his injuries.

Rocky underwent multiple surgeries to reattach bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves and muscle tissue. Under normal circumstances, Rocky may have been thought a lost cause by any other facility, and either rendered an unreleasable amputee or euthanised. But Riverside owner and founder, Bob Venter, has many years experience repairing these types of injuries in primates and decided to give Rocky a chance to live a normal life. With the kindness, support and encouragement of Bob, Lynne and the volunteers at Riverside, Rocky began to improve. After ten days his wounds were healing and, with newly bandaged arms, he took his first steps (above left). Rocky’s casts were made to be more lightweight and accessible, allowing for physiotherapy on both hands and treatment to his wounds. He also discovered a new way of getting around by putting down his arms with splints on the floor and using them like skis! And his confidence grew...

Rocky on the Road to Recovery...


Three months after his arrival, Rocky was recovering so well that he could voluntarily move and control both arms. He experienced some difficulty keeping his right hand open when in motion, however, he had no difficulty in closing the hand or applying a firm grip when he held his bottle or food, when climbing trees, holding on to the care takers or his new friend Spike – another baby who required surgery on a leg injury. It is thought that the bullet must have damaged some part of the radial nerve inhibiting voluntary use of some of the hand muscles. However, he has never let that stop him.

Final Phases of Rehabilitation...


By April 2012, one would never know the obstacles Rocky had overcome in his first five months. On 26 September, 2013, Rocky, Spike and ten other youngsters were moved to the introductory enclosure alongside the large Carina/Chris enclosure, which houses the semi-wild baboon troop, in preparation for their integration.


Then on 29 October, 2013, nearly two years after arriving as a severely injured and distressed baby baboon, Rocky led his group out of the introductory enclosure to integrate with the semi-wild troop. At first, the young group were cautious to leave their comfort zone. It took 45 minutes for the group to gain enough confidence to explore the big enclosure. Rocky was the first one to leave and started to play with the curious sub-adult males.


Riverside management were concerned that he might damage his arms during the rough play of the other older baboons, however, he did fantastically well during the numerous scuffles. Then came the ultimate test: he climbed high - 6m+ - in to a tree, with sub-adult male, Bankok in pursuit, and jumped from that height landing full-weight onto his hands. Amazingly, Rocky was fine and repeated the jump!


The perseverance of Bob, Lynne and all Riverside volunteers involved in his rehabilitation has enabled Rocky to develop into one brave baboon. It took just over two hours for all 12 young baboons to leave the intro. Over the next few hours and following several days the troop were closely monitored to ensure all was well. Rocky, sooner than any of his peers, became socially integrated into the troop, rarely being sighted by the fence, and normally choosing to socialize with older juvenile males and adult females, rather than his younger peers.

The Near Finale to Rocky's Journey


It is widely advocated that such a large number of baboons cannot be integrated into an established troop without serious injuries, and possible fatalities. But this introduction went smoothly and without harm - tribute to the scientific and measured approach Riverside takes to the rehabilitation of each animal as individuals, then as a cohesive troop. Rocky has been through the preliminary stages of the rehabilitation process and is now living as a semi-wild baboon in his own troop. He has entered the next phase of his journey, where he will no longer have human contact, and will forge his place in an established troop that will lead him to the final stage, reintroduction, where he will eventually live and forage in the wild.

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