Cape Town baboon management: Creecy raises hopes of finding a solution as state bodies pass the buck

A Cape Chacma baboon.
A Cape Chacma baboon.
Getty Images
  • The management of stray baboons on the Cape Peninsula has been a vexing issue for residents and the City of Cape Town.
  • Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy has added her influence in a bid to find a resolution.
  • The City recently announced it was abandoning its baboon management programme.

While Environment Minister Barbara Creecy last week raised hopes of clarifying responsibility for baboon management in the City of Cape Town, the SA National Parks (SANParks) has been slammed for "perpetuating the confusion" about its statutory obligation to manage baboons in the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

The minister's proposal for "round table talks" between the local, provincial and national environment authorities - the metro, Cape Nature and SANParks - follows the City's decision to abandon the urban baboon management programme.

It conceded "baboon management is not the mandate of the City", despite having spent multiple millions to fund the controversial programme for 12 years.

READ | Cape Town metro to abandon baboon management programme: 'Animal rights activists have won'

In a formal statement on the Cape Town metro's decision to abandon the baboon management programme, the department's Albi Modise said: "Minister Creecy has tasked SANParks to work with Cape Nature and the City of Cape Town to convene a round table on baboon management and work with civil society.              

"The challenge of baboons in the Cape metropole is complex and requires co-operation among stakeholders, not finger pointing.

"The purpose of the roundtable is to attempt to reintegrate a range of stakeholders who have been alienated by current baboon management practices."

Responsibility for managing Chacma baboons on the urban edges of the TMNP has long been disputed by the statutory environmental authorities. The dispute centres around responsibility for Chacma baboons which leave the TMNP into residential areas on the urban edge.

"SANParks has always acknowledged its responsibility in managing baboons in Table Mountain National Park. By law, when animals leave a national park, they are the responsibility of a provincial entity or of the landowner on whose land they traverse," said Modise.

But this statement is not going unchallenged.

ALSO READ | Jane Goodall backs Betty's Bay group's fight against council 'paint balling, euthanising' baboons

"Absolute nonsense," retorted lawyer Naude Visser, who acts for animal activist Ryno Engelbrecht.

In 2020, Engelbrecht forced the City to return the well-loved baboon Kataza to his troop in Kommetjie

The strategy on buffer zones for national parks, promulgated in 2012 by then-environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa, explicitly stated "any animal escaping from a national park into buffer zone areas other than adjacent conservation estate, the national park management authority must take all steps reasonably necessary to capture the animal; or deal with the animal so that the public interest is best served and any danger posed by such animal is averted or minimised".

"As long as the ministry continues to deny SANParks' responsibility for wild animals outside of the TMNP, they perpetuate the so-called 'confusion' and the conflict between the local, provincial and national environment authorities - they're perpetuating 'confusion' to avoid their statutory obligation." said Visser.

Modise did not specify what law makes "a provincial entity" responsible for baboons leaving the TMNP and Cape Nature has denied such responsibility.

In response to why Cape Nature had provided permits to the metro with "no mandate", Zohra Parker said "Cape Nature has no obligation to keep baboons out of urban areas and is not responsible for nuisance animals, or waste management; and also does not have any mandated obligation towards the health and safety of city residents. We obviously advise and support where we can".

The DA's Dave Bryant said Naude was "spot on".

"If an elephant leaves the boundaries of Kruger Park and enters a residential area it is ridiculous to suggest that would be the responsibility of an individual homeowner or the local municipality to capture and return the elephant.

"For SANParks to suggest that individual homeowners must now deal with rogue baboons themselves could have dangerous consequences for both animals and people," Bryant added.

Weeks ago, the City withdrew four rangers from Tokai and Constantia, claiming "contingency funding" was depleted.

The move prompted outrage from Constantia residents, as baboons moved into the area causing damage to property and threatening residents and pets.

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