“Their mother would never leave them on the floor by choice, as they would be extremely vulnerable to predators,” Ian Merrifield, the other co-founder of Daktari, told The Dodo. “As the babies had been alone all night on the floor, it is most likely that their mother had passed away.”
“They were very traumatized and not in a good state,” Ian Merrifield said. “They were both hungry and cold.”
The babies, named Tic and Tac, were making pitiful little clicking sounds — distress signals that infants make when they’ve become separated from their mothers. The rescuers hearts broke, knowing that they were crying in vain for a mother that would never come.
But, her babies still had a chance at life, and they were determined to do everything possible to make sure they got it!
“We first wrapped them in a blanket and used our own body heat to warm them up,” Ian Merrifield said. “We gave them small amounts of … a special kind of protein porridge we often give to small orphaned animals through a syringe.”
The first order of business anytime you’re dealing with an orphaned animal is to get it warm. If you feed a chilled baby, the milk will curdle in the stomach and they will likely die.
Their core temp must be normal before they can be fed anything that must be digested. So, out came fluffy blankets to wrap around the two. The babies insisted that they be kept together.
Their cries became so insistent when they were separate that everyone agreed that it would be best if they remained touching. Touch is very important for monkeys, especially babies that had lost the only touch they had known in their life.
So, they wrapped the two in a blanket that a volunteer kept warm with their body heat.
After a while, the babies warmed up enough that they could eat a special “porridge” that the rescuers made specifically for orphans.
Despite the fact that they knew the babies were getting the best possible care, rescuers still worried about Tic and Tac’s chances of surviving. Especially little Tac, who was the smaller and weaker one of the two siblings.
Losing their mother and then spending the night alone on the floor of the jungle had been very traumatizing for them. “Often when babies so young go through something like this, the stress itself kills them,” Ian Merrifield said.
Over the next week or so, Tic and Tac were fed every three hours — around the clock. “Each night, we would take turns looking after them and staying up through the night to keep them warm and well-fed,” Ian Merrifield said.
When they weren’t eating, Tic and Tac were always snuggled together — they were inseparable. They had lost their mother, but they were not alone. And they held on to that fact and each other.
“They take great comfort in one another and snuggle at any chance they get,” Ian Merrifield said. “If you go to their enclosure to feed them, you will see they are always snuggled together in a little ball. Sometimes they’re snuggled so tight, it’s hard to tell where one starts and the other begins.”
They want to be right beside each other when they eat too.
“The only time they are apart is when we feed them,” Ian Merrifield said. “But even then, we feed them with a syringe right next to each other, and often they have to stop for a cuddle midway.”
The boys may be the same age, but Tic has definitely taken on the big brother role.
“If Tic hears Tac calling, he jumps towards him to check that he’s OK,” Ian Merrifield said. “You can see that as siblings, they have a very special relationship with one another. If they are cuddled up together, he always wraps his body around Tac to make sure he is safe.”
The volunteers can easily tell Tic and Tac apart by their size, but they also notice very different personality traits.
It is tempting for the rescuers to keep Tic and Tac as pets, but they know that it is impossible for a private home to maintain a habitat necessary for the little monkeys to be truly happy.
The rescuers will be sad to see them go, but they know that the two will be happiest climbing free in the jungle that is meant to be their home. So, they will do what is best for them.
Tic and Tac likely be unhappy living in captivity all of their life. And, bushbabies aren’t very good pet material anyway. They use their urine as a marking tool in the wild, marking limbs that are safe to climb on or that have food nearby.
This acts as a sort of a map through the jungle, reminders to themselves and markers for others. As handy as this trait is in the jungle, it becomes quite a problem when the bushbaby begins marking with urine everything it touches…in a human home. Since this trait is impossible to train out, it is best to just enjoy the bushbaby in its natural environment.
Tic and Tac will stay at Daktari until they’ve grown big enough to survive on their own. Then they’ll be released back into the wild.
“There are several families of bush babies living in the trees outside the volunteer house,” Ian Merrifield said. “Once we release them, they will hopefully integrate with those families.”
The two survived on their own before, no matter what happens they know one thing. They will always have each other.