Monkeys terrorise South African hospital while stealing food from patients

Monkeys have terrorised South African hospital patients for three months as they run riot through wards and kitchens stealing food while sick and elderly cower under their blankets

  • Vervet monkeys began breaking into hospital in Durban just before Christmas
  • They use patient curtain rails to run along before dropping down to steal food 
  • Hospital set up a task force to tackle the problem, but has not found a solution
  • The 543-bed building was built in jungle that the monkeys previously lived in 

Monkeys have been terrorising patients at a hospital in South Africa, stealing food from sick patients who are forced to cower from them under their bed covers.

The aggressive troop of vervet monkeys began targeting the RK Khan Hospital in Durban before Christmas, entering through windows which had been left open.

Video taken from one of the wards shows the monkeys running along curtain rails above the beds and scampering along the floor, leaving patients in despair.

The primates run along curtain rails before dropping down to steal fruit from patients

A troop of aggressive vervet monkeys began terrorising the RK Khan Hospital in Durban shortly before Christmas, climbing in through open windows and stealing fruit

The primates feed on fruit and other food brought in by relatives of the sick and often left beside their beds. 

Hospital bosses have set up a task force to deal with the monkeys and the Health Minister has demanded a halt to the invasions.

But still the vervets break in daily and bring fear to patients, many of whom are seriously ill.

The 543-bed flagship hospital which was built on the site of a forest where the monkeys used to live.

Video taken by visitors show at least six monkeys in the ward stealing and eating food, while witnesses say as many as 20 monkeys are in the ward at any one time. 

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said: ‘We must find an immediate solution and I no longer want to see monkeys in the premises.

The monkeys are aggressive and carry diseases such as hepatitis and yellow fever

Hospital bosses have launched a task force to tackle the issue

Hospital bosses have launched a task force to get rid of the monkeys, which are aggressive and carry diseases such as hepatitis and yellow fever

‘I do not want to see the monkeys in the wards where there are vulnerable patients as it is a very dangerous scene and it also brings with it health risks to the patients.’

The monkeys can carry diseases including TB, yellow fever and hepatitis and are compromising the sterile environment in the hospital as well interfering with drips attached to patients.

A task team consisting of a state vet, health and biodiversity and environmental experts has been set up but so far they have not come up with a solution to keep the wards clear of monkeys.

Hospital sources say the windows cannot be closed as few of the wards are air conditioned.

However Penny Owens, on a Facebook post showing the monkey video, seemed to have a simple answer.

Adult vervets average 12lbs in weight and can grow up to 4ft long, including their tail

Adult vervets average 12lbs in weight and can grow up to 4ft long, including their tail

She said: ‘Oh for pity’s sake – how difficult would it be to put a metal mesh over the windows?’.

Another, Els Bean, said: ‘My daughter had first hand experience of this with monkeys stealing her breakfast in the RK Khan but even though we tried, we were not allowed to film it by staff.’

Social media posts said the monkeys were forced off the land where their forest was when it was built and that the remaining forest has been cut down by locals who have put up new housing.

A hospital visitor, who asked not to be named in case hospital staff persecuted her sick mother, said: ‘The monkeys can seem very cute but they are in there to steal what food they can grab.

‘They can have very aggressive fights over food and they can accidentally knock out IV drips and I have seen patients very scared and getting under their bed covers to hide from them.

‘It has been going on for three or four months now and nothing is being done’ she said. 

Adult vervets average 12lbs in weight and can be 2 foot long without counting the tail and 4 foot long with it.