"I met WATCH two years ago, due to a collaboration with my university in Switzerland. I came to South Africa to do my research and I never thought to find a place like WATCH. In this paradise I found a perfect workplace, where animals are kept with love and passion. During my period at WATCH I had the opportunity to become mother of a lovely baby's monkey for a few months, but I also released a group in the wild. Unforgettable moments that I will carry in my mind forever. WATCH gave me a lot, and made me find a second family away from home. THANK YOU WATCH." Tecla Mohr
"I have volunteered at other animal sanctuaries in Borneo and Canada and this time I decided to volunteer at the WATCH centre as it seemed personal and more hands on. I wasn’t disappointed. I arrived in Vryheid in December 2019 to a very warm welcome from Sandi, and had a short journey to the WATCH centre. On arrival I was greeted by Meg and shown to my very clean and comfortable room. I was taken to see the babies who were all asleep cuddling each other. The centre had a rescued Bush baby which I got to hold, he was so tiny and lucky to be alive.The noise of everyone in the house made the babies very curious so they soon woke up. I sat with them but didn’t attempt to touch them. I knew they had to come to me in their own time.
The babies have a strict routine in the mornings. The food and milk is prepped prior to getting them out of their enclosure. Then it’s a cool bath which is hysterical and then bottle and cuddles followed by lots of play time. It doesn’t take the babies long to connect with you. They play all day so enriching the play area is encouraged and they are fed on demand. You get weed on a lot too!I had the pleasure of 3 babies who liked to sleep on me instead of in their basket.
The adults in the outside enclosure are fed in the morning and treated to nuts and dried spaghetti in the afternoon. The noise of them eating the spaghetti is something to behold. Meg and I made an enclosure for Eli the bush baby so that he was able to stay out safely in the evenings.
At 6.30 it’s the babies bed time. Their bed is made in advance so it’s one last bottle and cuddle then off to bed. They do tend to cry a little but no molly coddling.Whilst at the centre I was able to go to a release site to help feed the monkeys, I helped to collect fruit and veg from various locations and help to get a Rock Hyrax which had gotten a bit lost and landed up inside of Sandi's room! ( The Hyrax was netted and safely relocated by Meg) That’s a story you have to hear.
Dinner is cooked on a rota basis so you do get to try different meals from different cultures. (Yes you get your turn)Whilst at the centre I was made to feel very welcome. Sandi was very accommodating and made me feel like part of the family. I was there over Christmas and we had members of a local research group join us also. Sandi put on an amazing lunch and made everyone feel very welcome. I would recommend Volunteering at the centre. No two days are the same, you get to interact with the monkeys and look after them when they need you the most. My only wish is that I had stayed longer." Janice Heath- Dec 2019-Jan 2020
"My decision to volunteer at W.A.T.C.H came from wanting to do something different and achieve a great few stories to tell. I stayed there for 3 months, towards the end of the baby season, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Below is a brief description.
When I first arrived I was extremely tired from travelling but the next morning I was ready to go. Bruce showed me how to make bottles for the babies and then introduced me to them. At first they were very cautious around me but it didn't take long until they were climbing all over me, the first thing I could tell was there was a hierarchy already established.
An average day with the babies includes: making sure they have enough food, enough milk, an exciting play area and a older figure to be with them as they do not have one, most babies being orphans. This is a very relaxing job to do and also interesting to watch, but as well as that, it is always nice to receive a hug from a baby monkey!
As they get older, they are moved into a bigger enclosure into a formed troop, this includes a mother-like figure. As I stayed, more and more of the babies moved down there, so my focus shifted onto the new monkey we got in, who was a late baby for the season. Neelsie grew very fast and I made sure that he always had enough interaction with the others yet remaining conscious of when he needed feeding or just a break with playing with the big boys (and girls!).
Staying with Bruce and Sandi very much is a rule of make yourself at home, they ensure that you do feel at home and are comfortable. This also means being asked if you want to be involved in an activity - for example for Easter we went down to the local children's home and handed out Easter eggs. They have lovely pets, cats and dogs, which are playful. On top of that they also have a few members of staff that work round the centre that are very kind and willing to help.
Overall I would recommend this experience to everyone, it is wonderful and a good way to not only help wildlife but get close to it. To get a closer inside look I would recommend looking at the W.A.T.C.H Facebook group, where you will also find past volunteers if you have any questions." Jack Mccowie: Jan 10th - March 29th, 2016
"One of the most rewarding things l have ever done was spending 6 weeks as a volunteer at W.A.T.C.H looking after these tiny Vervet monkeys. I stayed with Sandi and Bruce who are the owners of W.A.T.C.H at Vryheid, they make you feel at home and part of the family. Also part of the family are 2 cats and 5 dogs who are lovely friendly dogs.
The day started with preparing milk bottles, cutting up fruit, getting cereal ready and what ever else they were having on the day. Once that is done it's time to just spend the day with and looking after these beautiful baby Vervets. They are masters of play, it is so entertaining watching them as they jump over and on top of each other and then on to me just to give me a hug or a kiss then off they would go again.
Sometimes l would put them into a basket and take them for a walk, stopping to inspect a tree or a flower they seem to enjoy these walks, then it was back for an afternoon nap, after the nap it was all play again till it was time for them to go to bed for the night. Every moment that l spent with these precious babies lt was so special knowing that l was helping to get them ready to go back to the wild where they belong.
So if you are looking for something really rewarding to do think about being a volunteer at W.A.T.C.H l do recommend it. Lorna King: Nov 18 - Dec 30 2015
I volunteered here in 2013 and had the most incredible time. So pleased to see how much the centre has grown and I can't wait to come back again!
"I loved my time at WATCH, with the monkey family and the human family! Fabulous environment to volunteer in, very rewarding to know that you have helped some innocent living being make it back in to the wild." Heidi Gibbs: UK - 2015
I had an amazing and wonderful time, raising orphaned baby Vervet monkeys in Vryheid. After a warm welcome from Bruce and Sandi, the owners of the centre who both have devoted all their time to the Vervet monkeys, I got introduced to the first baby 'Tjokker' . Five more followed over the time. It is so rewarding to see them playing, growing to happy little monkeys and finally getting integrated into the troop. I washed and fed them, played with them and enjoyed it when they were sleeping in my arms. There was always something going on from early in the morning until they were put to sleep. I got really attached to them and learned a lot from the monkeys and about the monkeys and their behaviour, I almost became a monkey too. I also had the opportunity to watch two troops being released back into the wild and went twice to the site to help feeding them. I am very grateful for the time I could spend there and being a part of the monkey family. Monika Graber: 1.11.2014 - 18.4.2015
"As the funder and coordinator of the research field site: ‘Inkaw Vervet Project’ (IVP) it has been a great surprise in 2009, during my first investigation of the reserve where to start the project, when I saw an advertisement in a pub of Vryheid for WATCH. I contacted them the next day for a visit, as I was interested for a long time in comparing the behaviours of wild and captive vervet monkeys! Sandi and Bruce have been very welcoming and helpful to conduct my research with their monkeys. This fruitful collaboration already yielded two published papers in good journals for animal behaviour research. But the relationship with Sandi and Bruce became more than just a professional one, they are my friends. And it is always good to have a monkey chat with them and stop at their peaceful sanctuary during a hectic grocery shopping day in town… They also became part of the social life of the whole IVP team! Thank you so much dear Sandi and Bruce for your support and friendship, looking forward spending more time with you soon soon!" Dr. Erica van de Waal, Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, University of St Andrews, Scotland - since 2010 onwards Erica (Dr. Erica van de Waal - http://www2.unine.ch/ethol/van_de_waal_erica)
Amanda Guy, PhD Candidate, University of New South Wales, Australia - Sept. - October 2010 This letter is to recommend WATCH vervet monkey rehabilitation centre as a primatology research centre. I spent seven weeks at WATCH in September and October of 2010 to conduct fieldwork studies for my PhD on vervet monkey rehabilitation, conducted through the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. During my stay I was able to carry out behavioural observations on two troops being prepared for release in 2011 and also was able to learn all about vervet monkey rehabilitation by drawing on the vast knowledge and experience of Bruce and Sandi Cronk. I believe that there are many opportunities for future research including numerous areas of study ranging from behaviour to various aspects of the release and post release monitoring processes.
Excellent accommodation is available onsite for a very reasonable cost, including separate bedrooms and a guest bathroom. I felt very welcome in Bruce and Sandi’s home and would recommend WATCH as a research centre for anybody wanting to work closely with vervet monkeys.
Jennifer Botting, PhD Student, Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, University of St Andrews, Scotland "As a researcher at the nearby Inkawu Vervet Project, I have often conducted research trials at the W.A.T.C.H with their vervet monkeys to either run pilot trials or test how vervets will interact with apparatus. Bruce and Sandi are very accommodating about all research requests and make it a great place to conduct research. The monkeys are housed in large enclosures with plenty of enrichment and given a great amount of care. I've also had the opportunity to assist with a couple of releases and spend some time with the orphans as they are hand-reared, both of which were amazing experiences. W.A.T.C.H. is an excellent facility, both in terms of research potential and the welfare of the animals, and Bruce and Sandi are not only very accommodating, but also great company!" Jennifer Botting