ANC Western Cape leader calls for public inquiry into baboon management programme

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The City of Cape Town's baboon management plans have been labelled outdated.
The City of Cape Town's baboon management plans have been labelled outdated.
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  • A senior ANC official in the Western Cape has added his voice to the debate on the management of baboons.
  • Cameron Dugmore says he intends raising the matter with the party's caucus in the legislature.
  • The City of Cape Town has been accused of animal cruelty in the management of baboons. It denies this.

Cameron Dugmore, the ANC's leader in the Western Cape legislature, has called for a public inquiry into the legality of the City of Cape Town's baboon management operation and the estimated R100 million expenditure of public funds.

Dugmore's call comes after questions were raised about irregularities in the issuing of non-transferable permits by Cape Nature to a third-party, on behalf of the City of Cape Town.

He went on to say the inquiry "should include all three spheres of government (national, provincial and municipal), as SANParks, Cape Nature and the City of Cape Town are all involved".

The chief executive of Cape Nature, Dr Razeena Omar, declined to provide any explanation for contradictions in permits issued to Human and Wildlife Solutions (HWS), which managed the chacma baboon troops of the Cape Peninsula on behalf of the City over the last nine years - at a cost of around R100 million.

Cape Nature refused to provide News24 with copies of the permits, but these were disclosed in court papers filed by the City, to oppose the High Court application of animal activist Ryno Engelbrecht, who accused the metro of animal cruelty.

Engelbrecht also claimed the City had no authority to manage the chacma baboons of the Cape Peninsula.

READ | CapeNature permits raise more questions about legality of City's baboon management programme

The City seemingly gave in to Engelbrecht's demands and returned Kataza (officially known as SK11), the much-loved chacma baboon, to his native troop on Slangkop, Kommetjie, after he was relocated to Tokai.

His removal from Slangkop ignited public outrage and a petition of 30 000 signatories, calling on the City's mayoral committee member for environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, to return the baboon to Slangkop.

SANParks, Cape Nature and the SPCA - members of the City's Baboon Technical Team (BTT) - all denied any involvement in the decision to relocate Kataza.

Emails included in court papers also reveal the municipality's disregard for its own baboon management guidelines, in terms of which "damage-causing" (raiding) baboons can be "euthanised" and dispersing baboons relocated, and that Kataza's life was saved by the public outcry.

HWS director Phil Richardson claimed "SK11 is not showing any signs of dispersing", thus undermining the case for relocation. In his July report, Richardson makes clear that "the most significant management challenge during July was the persistent attempts made by SK11 to take splinter groups into the urban area".

It was also noted that Kataza "regularly challenged the line of rangers", suggesting the application to euthanise Kataza may have been due to the failure of HWS to keep the baboons out of Kommetjie.

OPINION | Managing baboons on the urban edge of Kommetjie

An email of 23 August from researcher Esme Beamish, suggests euthanasia "would be the correct decision", then goes on to add, "but he cannot be euthanised due to the politics of the situation".

Beamish goes on to "support relocation to the north".

She confirmed she was invited to share her "expertise and offer advice to the baboon management programme."

The City's attempts to keep the operation away from public scrutiny is revealed in minutes of 7 May 2017, which reads: "The blanket agreement for no-media is still in place and HWS is not allowed engage the media ... there is a concern of negative media."

Dugmore said he would take the matter to the ANC caucus in the Western Cape legislature, and suggest that the party's Pat Marran request the standing committee on agriculture, environmental affairs and development planning to call the role-players to a public hearing.

In September, DA parliamentarians Cheryl Phillips and Hannah Winkler lobbied for the City of Cape Town to meet activists.

Phillips' call came after the Jane Goodall Institute advised that the City's baboon management methods weren't "international best practice anymore".

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