Are baboons rogues or a resource?  This was debated by communication experts from the City of Cape Town, SANParks and Cape Nature in a workshop “Baboons and Responsible Tourism” convened by the Baboon Liaison Group on Friday.

Against the background of international experience provided by Professor Shirley Strum of the University of California, and local knowledge from University of Cape Town researcher, Bentley Kaplan, the Baboon Liaison Group pushed for the Peninsula baboons to be considered as a responsible tourism resource.

“If your baboons are to be valued as a tourism resource, you need to change attitudes and reduce conflict” said Shirley Strum, who, at a public meeting the evening before, had said that she had never encountered such “badly behaved” baboons anywhere else.  “People are the problem”, said Strum “We need to work with the various affected communities in order to turn a liability into an asset”.  Click on link to read report about public meeting: http://scenicsouth.co.za//2012/02/dr-shirley-strum-what-makes-cape-peninsula-baboons-difficult-management-strategies/

In designing a communication strategy which would assist in this, all agreed that more information was needed about peoples’ attitudes to baboons on the Peninsula. UCT was planning a survey to provide this information.  It was also suggested that an estimate be made of the monetary tourism “value” of the baboons. But all of this would have to go hand in hand with getting the public to take more responsibility around reducing the easy food available to baboons.

The workshop was a first step in encouraging responsible media coverage of baboons.  “The media have a powerful role to play in educating the public. It would be wonderful if we could shift our focus to baboons as wild animals fulfilling a charismatic role in our biodiversity, and away from baboons raiding houses and cars” concluded Doug Tunbridge, Chairman of the Baboon Liaison Group.

Press Release Issued by Baboon Liaison Group
27 February 2012
Contact: Dr Lesley Shackleton, lysnew@iafrica.com