Bin-diving baboons our fault

2017-09-05 06:02
A cartoon commissioned by Baboon Matters, which illustrates the futility of gadgets meant to track baboon movements. They say money would be better spent on managing waste in conflict hotspots such as Simon’s Town. illustration: Chip Snaddon

A cartoon commissioned by Baboon Matters, which illustrates the futility of gadgets meant to track baboon movements. They say money would be better spent on managing waste in conflict hotspots such as Simon’s Town. illustration: Chip Snaddon

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The article “Baboons make mess” notes that residents, shop owners and navy personnel in Simon’s Town have experienced an increase in baboon activity to the point where “theft from private homes, as well as businesses, is a concern. The raiding of the public bins is leaving litter” (People’s Post, 29 August).

How many times have we seen this sort of article in Cape Town media over the past 50 years?

How is it possible that, despite a budget of R10m a year, well-resourced staff and the full support of the baboon technical team members (being the City of Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park, Cape Nature, the Baboon Research Unit of UCT and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA), baboons are still “raiding” in villages?

We have been fed ongoing propaganda of research and theory to implement the “landscape of fear”, baboons were collared to show where they were, what they were doing and where they went, bear bangers have been deployed and the baboons have been mercilessly paintballed to chase them away from areas that fall within the “landscape of fear”.

More despicable than the aggressive management options, however, are the lethal methods that were stringently implemented by the baboon technical team from 2012. Sixty-two so-called problem baboons have been killed. A recent review by Baboon Matters proved that the removal of individual baboons has not solved the raiding. In fact, in many instances, raiding increased in one or more of the identified raiding categories within two months.

In most cases, the baboons tagged as being problematic are dominant males. By continually removing a dominant male the troop hierarchy is negatively impacted, and the troop is kept in a semi-permanent state of stress as the remaining males (or new incoming males) fight for dominance.

The idea of bringing males from other troops into troops such as the Waterfall troop may have some merit as it would benefit the gene pool, but only if the males are allowed time to settle in.

Using the Waterfall troop as an example: The dominant male, Bongo, was killed for trouble he reportedly caused and a new male, Douglas, was “imported” from Tokai. Accounts from residents of both Tokai and Simon’s Town indicate that Douglas was a really gentle baboon who spent a great deal of time with the juveniles. But when confronted with the abundant waste and easy rewards of Simon’s Town, Douglas soon joined the troop in their forays into the navy canteen and barracks. Who could blame him? An easy loaf of bread from the navy quarters versus a hard day digging for fynbos on the fire-ravaged ­mountains …

So Douglas was also killed.

Mayco member Brett Herron explained: “The reports reflect an increase in raiding in the Waterfall area as a result of infighting among males in the group and poor waste management by humans,” and concludes by saying that “improved waste management by humans at these locations has not to date been addressed and no solutions have yet been implemented”.

How damning and what an incredibly poor response to both the humans and baboons. It is unacceptable for residents who pay over R10m per year in ratepayers’ money for a project that has yet to address the issues, and, more importantly, how absolutely inexcusable that so many baboons have been killed, such upheaval created amongst the troops as the technical team chases notions of a landscape of fear instead of getting to the core of the issue – being waste ­management.

Baboon Matters has been requesting meetings with Herron since February; we are told that despite the fact that the City runs the tender process and employs the service provider, they are not accountable for management of baboons; this being a joint responsibility held by the baboon technical team.

There can be no argument that managing waste is a municipal function, and if there were better bylaws, fines and systems in place, the food available to baboons from our waste would be significantly reduced. Not only does the City need to implement better waste management strategies in areas where there is ongoing baboon conflict, but every resident of and visitor to the area has a responsibility to manage his waste and to baboon-proof bins.

Jenni Trethowan Baboon Matters

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