Cape Town - The City of Cape Town says two young baboons injured in recent wildfires in Ocean View were monitored for days following the blazes, but were not removed from the area to be treated because it was feared their wounds would take too long to heal, making it impossible to return them to their natural habitat.
The baboon conservation organisation, Baboon Matters, has accused the City of effectively being responsible for the death of one of the injured baboons, named Phoenix, on Saturday.
According to the City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, the baboons were not removed because it was feared they would become "habituated" to humans.
"There was... concern that if the juveniles were removed, the wounds would take more than five days to heal, after which time the juveniles would be 'unreleasable', as they were still very young and would become habituated very easily," he told News24.
On Monday, Kathy Kelly of Baboon Matters disputed this and said the organisation had attended to and released several baboons in the past without them having become habituated to humans.
But on Tuesday, Herron said the situation was further complicated by the fact that Phoenix was the offspring of the alpha male of the Da Gama baboon troop and a senior female, both of which had aggressively protected the juvenile in the days following the Ocean View fires.
According to Herron, the team assessing the situation was working on the understanding that past experience has shown that juveniles had a good chance of healing and remaining wild if humans did not interfere.
"Removing the juveniles from these large baboons was deemed to be very difficult and potentially dangerous, if even possible at all," he said.
Jenni Trethowan, of Baboon Matters, said the organisation had been denied entry to the area where the baboon troop was.
However, Herron said the Table Mountain National Park was an open park and access to it could not be denied.
According to Herron, the City manages 17 baboon troops.
The number of baboons in the city increased from 379 in 2006 to more than 600 in 2016.