Baboon baby boom worries Uruguay zoo

2012-08-18 19:29

Montevideo - A population explosion of baboons at a Uruguayan zoo has their keepers worried that the 130 increasingly aggressive animals will forcibly resist being moved to a larger enclosure.

For years the troop of Hamadrya baboons - a species of Old World monkeys native to the Horn of Africa and Yemen - has lived in a domed metal cage built for birds of prey at the Parque Lecocq, a reserve northwest of Montevideo.

The 2 300m² cage used to have grass, palm trees and a lake with aquatic plants. "It was the most adequate environment, because there the species could develop socially," said Parque Lecocq director Eduardo Tavares.

The enormous cage made it difficult for the zookeepers to control the population, Tavares said, so the animals were allowed to do "what nature called them to do".

As the population grew, the animals destroyed all plant life inside the cage.

"They even finished with the grass, and are now eating the roots. The vegetation died off, and what is left is an environment that looks like their semi-desert homeland," Tavares said.

Aggressive nature

Up to 60 baboons is plenty for the zoo, he said. "That would guarantee the colony's viability and would save us money on food," he said.

In the current oversized colony, the baboons become "much more aggressive, there can be fights, there is competition for the females", Tavares said.

The baboons are peaceful when zoo workers enter the cage for routine cleanups and feeding, but "their aggressive nature emerges when one of them is captured, or when we try to take out one that has died", said Tavares.

"They join and attack as a whole troop. It's very dangerous."

The Parque Lecocq is nearing completion of an open-air enclosure for the baboons six times larger than the cage that will include rooms where zoo keepers can check the health of each animal - which will be tagged with a microchip - and carry out birth control procedures.

The challenge, however, will be moving the baboons to their new home. "No one in the world has ever moved such a large number of these monkeys," Tavares said.

  • walter.lebza - 2012-08-19 00:04

    You want to move them? Its easy. If there are 130 of this animals, get 130 tranquilisers, shoot them, wait for them to faint, then move them to where you want them. Is that difficult?

      Desilusionada - 2012-08-19 00:44

      Yes I assume it is. i would imagine. IF you want all of them to survive... And if you have at least 60 shooters, so that they are very quickly tranquillized, so that they do not panic and hide away.... And you have a lot of medical personnel to revive those shot with the wrong strength tranquilliser and in the mean time have other personnel shooting those that are not under because the tranquilliser was not strong enough... And enough people to actually carry them there and... You get the picture? So they might do it piecemeal, but please believe me when I tell you these animals are like a big family and they will react to one being shot like you would if someone starts shooting at your family. Remember they do not know they are being shot with tranquillisers. So yeah it is not easy, but doable yes.

  • preshen.govender.90 - 2012-08-20 08:25

    Planet of the apes

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