‘And if Baboons could write, what book would they publish on the ways of mankind, and what would they then decide, beast or blessing?’ Noel Ashton: whale artist, conservationist and co-founder of Baboon Matters Trust.
What indeed are the baboons of William’s troop thinking? By now they must know that William, a charismatic male of the Scarborough Troop, a mate, a father and a brother is not coming back!! The euthanizing of William the Conqueror was in the news recently.
It once again brought the tricky issue of managing the chacma baboons of the South Peninsula into the limelight. While the authorities explain their actions as a last resort to remove an animal whose raiding behaviour has gone beyond opportunistic to deliberate break-in and entry.
The concern is that a baboon as lacking in fear of humans and as determined as William to raid inside houses poses a real risk of injuring someone and of teaching members of his troop advanced raiding behaviour.
Prominent local animal rights and baboon activists, on the other hand, are accusing the authorities of not doing enough to find non-lethal solutions for raider baboons. Certainly, when I read about William’s permanent removal from our society, I felt a deep sense of sadness and loss. I wonder if it isn’t just a matter of time before the only baboons left in this the Fairest Cape are those within Cape Point Nature Reserve.
Power is with Joe Public
Ultimately, the future of baboons is in the hands of ‘Joe Public.’ The authorities have the responsibility to manage wild baboons, which is difficult in an increasingly urbanized environment. Animal activists dedicate their time and energy to saving baboons, but it is up to the public to modify their lifestyle so that baboons also have a stake in the Cape.
This is the tricky part!! So many of us want to live in this beautiful and semi-wild part of the world where we can enjoy whales and fynbos and tell stories about porcupine visitors, leopard toads and of hearing a fish eagle call. Many of us appreciate in principle how special it is that there are still baboons living in ‘our mountains.’ Sadly, most of us don’t want to be inconvenienced by them.
The price of having ‘our nature’ tamed could well be at the expense of the free living baboons in the South Peninsula. It is easy to blame the authorities, but it is our lifestyles that have created problems with baboons – not problem baboons. In Simon’s Town the community took a proactive approach to baboon monitoring. They have successfully kept the baboons out of town. Oceanview experiences minimal problems with baboons, because the community does not provide an easy source of food. Each community situation is different and requires a different approach to discouraging our wild neighbours.
The question is: Do we care sufficiently to live in a way that leaves a place for wild neighbours, including the Baboons?
What can we do?
Easy access to food is the main reason that baboons target built up areas. By joining your picnic, raiding your veggie patch, picking your bin lock or treating your kitchen as a self service canteen, baboons get access to easy calories that would otherwise take them hours to gather in the wild. And because of encroaching urban development, natural baboon feeding areas are increasingly being built upon. This makes gathering wild food all the more difficult and our homes all the more attractive and results in escalating conflict between baboons and humans. While we humans may be inconvenienced and anti-baboon measures cost us money, increasingly the baboons are paying with their lives.
If you live in an area such as the South Peninsula of Cape Town, Nature’s Valley or areas where baboons have learnt to raid, there are a number of things you can do as a household and as a community to actively discourage them. Baboons need to learn that raiding while running the gauntlet of dogs, cars and furious humans is simply not worth it. With a bit of effort and a good measure of concern for nature we can outsmart baboons for the benefit of both species.
That said, how well do you score i.t.o managing your property so that you do not attract baboons?
Should you encounter baboons in your residential area (Cape Town only) phone the baboon monitoring hotline on 071 588 6540.
By Kim Kruyshaar, environmental writer.