Euthanizing Richmond baboon troop is not the answer - expert

2016-04-06 15:11

Durban - Euthanizing a troop of baboons from Richmond where a child was attack two weeks ago is not the answer, a baboon expert has said.

Seluleko Xaba, 6, was gravely injured when he was attacked by a lone male baboon at his family homestead on Progress Farm in central KZN.

The attack purportedly prompted calls from the Xaba family to have the baboons removed from the area or destroyed during a meeting involving local government politicians, KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife officials and Crow, who had originally introduced the baboons into the farm habitat.    

The baboons on the farm had been rescued and rehabilitated were introduced into the existing baboon population two years ago, with the attack on the child being the only reported incident until now.

Allegations of accountability have swirled in the wake of the attack, including that children from the homestead had fed the baboon just days before.  

Baboon behaviour and rehabilitation expert Bob Venter, of the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Limpopo, said that destroying an entire troop of baboons was untenable.    

“My personal opinion is that it is preposterous that the authorities want to go that way. It is totally ridiculous; primates are the most threatened mammal species on the planet. There are other ways to deal with this issue and killing them is not the answer,” he said.

“If the children fed them [baboons] then they will immediately adapt and when you withhold hold food they will lash out. Something must have happened between the children and the baboon for this to happen,” Venter added.

Crow Director Claire Hodgkinson said they were awaiting a decision from KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife on how to handle the situation.

“Everyone, including Crow, is now waiting to hear back from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife management as they asked for two weeks in Friday’s consultation meeting with the farm owner and community representatives,” she said.

“If Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife decides to relocate the baboons then a new home for them will need to be found in an extremely short space of time. Capturing all the baboons, who have been living wild and free for two and a half years now, is also going to be an extremely challenging task.”

Hodgkinson said that representatives of the family had rejected outright a proposal to have locals recruited and trained to work as baboon monitors.

“It came to light at Friday’s meeting that the baboon responsible for the attack was getting food at the farm in the days leading up to the attack. We therefore proposed that more education was needed at a community level as what to do and not to do around baboons. Crow was prepared to offer that to the community, as was done extensively by its baboon monitor who it employed in the first 6 months following the release,” she said.

"Then, we also proposed recruiting, training and employing full-time monitors from the local community to track the baboons in the area and keep them away from the local community. The monitors would have to provide regular feedback to all the relevant stakeholders including the local community.

“Crow is deeply disappointed that the community representatives present at Friday’s meeting rejected this idea and we are still hopeful that they may reconsider and allow us to research and present to them with a detailed proposal which will give us an opportunity to consult with the relevant experts on human wildlife conflict,” she said. 

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