Open letter from Baboon Matters Trust regarding Protest and `Facts on Baboons’:

To set the record straight: Baboon Matters Trust took the strategic decision not to organise the protest as we are of the opinion that decision makers and role players involved in baboon management imagine that any objections or disagreement with baboon management originate from Baboon Matters Trust.  Further is the mistaken belief that dissent regarding baboon management is limited to a small, known group of “naysayer’s”.  I discussed our stance with Sam and thereafter played no further role in organising the protest, other than to forward her communications on to IA&Ps.  I thank Sam and her fellow organisers for understanding the Baboon Matters Trust stance and proceeding with a course of action that they felt to be correct and justified.

I arrived at the protest rather late due to a family crisis but was astonished to see exactly how far the level of concern for baboons goes.  Represented at the protest were:

Earthlife Africa,  Beauty without Cruelty, Sea Shepherd, Darwin Primate Trust

 Professional people included:  Lawyers, Lecturers from differing establishments, Teachers, Veterinarians from the northern suburbs, Well known environmentalists

Other participants were: Students from differing schools, Students from differing universities, Residents from Scarborough through to Durbanville – with many areas in between,

It was interesting to see that COSATU had hijacked our application to protest and made use of our space.  It was stated that Tony Ehrenreich is against the Bredel cull and killing of wildlife.

To get to the misinformation: there are two differing situations here – activists who work with passion and ethics and the organisations BRU and BLG who, reportedly, rely purely on fact.  I shall stick to the fact so as not to enter into debate:

Dr. O’Riain quotes “three baboons killed in ten years (<1% of total population)”. This is misleading in the extreme as the true facts are that the three male baboons in question were all killed in the space of little more than one year, and only after the implementation of the controversial protocol drawn up by BRU and approved by the BLG amongst others.

The protocol and its subsequent implementation are the cause for alarm – particularly when guidelines of said protocol are not followed.  (Facts on Fred illustrated five points in the protocol that were overlooked)

Increase in number of troops from 10 – 16.  Fissioning troops are as a result of many dynamics within the individual troop and have little to do with improved management.

wrt the baboon population: Dr. O’Riain is correct to state various improvements to numbers (his points  1,3,& 4); however it is misleading to think that this is as a result of new management – it is rather the result of years (since 1990) raising awareness, raising issues, managing with extreme limited resources – but to lay claim to improved figures is misleading (for e.g. the improved ratio of mature juveniles in relation to management – really?? Just what did BRU do to achieve this – feed them all Pronutro?  Also remember that the majority of troops live close to, or in proximity to areas of dense urbanisation.  His facts are misleading.

JOR’s point 5: Again this is misleading.  One would have hoped that with improved resources, including increased monitors, that human related injuries to baboons would indeed decrease dramatically.  Is this actually so?  The past three months have resulted in the following (in random order, and only from my recollection and phone calls to me):

Jesse – shot, pellet to liver – died.

Juvenile Scarb. – hit by vehicle – died.

Female baboon – Kommetjie – pellet – euthanased.

Juvenile Scarb – hit by car – still alive but from pic attached not good.

Rude Boy – officially hit by car – but reports of shot to head

Sebastian – cause of death pneumonia from foreign object

Juv Scarb – found dead on roof

Capt Corelli – euthanased

Tokai – female attacked by dogs

Slangkop – juvenile hit by car – unsure of state.

Millers Point – female killed by car

The above human related deaths and injuries to baboons are not significantly lower than cases dealt with by Baboon Matters in 2009 – on average one or two per month.

*Subsequent to my draft email going out, I have been informed that there have been 14 deaths and 24 injuries in the past three months.

JOR’s point 6: it is true to say that there is a wealth of academics studying the baboons – however, trying to get relevant information from them is almost impossible – until (we are told) their work is published.  There can be a gap of nine years from when research starts, to when IA&P’s gain access to information.  In the case of census work undertaken by E. Beamish as part of her 9 year masters thesis – last population counts made available on repeated request were for 2008. 

JOR’ point 7 dealing with access to information.  This is again misleading in the extreme.  Whilst the BRU may input to the BLG and to the ops team, there is such a lack of communication outward that the process closely resembles censorship.  Requests for information are either ignored or prevaricated so that the points raised in concern are not answered; for e.g.

Having been accused of misinforming the general public, Baboon Matters Trust made three separate requests to get the final, implemented version of the Protocol governing individual raiding baboons – One response redirected my request – no answer and no information.

Requests for the case histories of Sol, William and Fred – ignored.

Official letter of concern to the operational team and the BLG – BLG denied participation on the Ops Team and the response from the Ops team merely noted our concerns but did not address them.

Requests for minutes of meeting and attendance at meetings denied – due to supposed acrimony – when questioned specifically about the acrimony, the chairman of the BLG  responded (email 2011-1-21) “ … certainly nothing about any supposed conflict between the BLG and BM and urgently need to know what is happening. Please urgently let me have any of these comments you may have available, as well as any background you can tell me about. I had imagined both the BLG and BM were anxious to discover common ground.”

Dissemination of information – this is again misleading as residents of affected areas and other IAP’s only hear about decisions once they have been implemented – there is no apparent system for giving views towards decisions, or for offering ideas to concerns as we are not informed in advance. See attached email to member of BLG raising these issues.  No response has been forthcoming.

There is mention of  a new “this emotive and important protocol.” (Sue Oosthuizen email 2011.3.24) presented to the BLG – another worrisome protocol?  How do we catch sight of it, input to it – comment??

Denial of involvement in management decisions – both BKG and BRU are intent to make the point that the authorities make the decisions and they have no part in the final decision – this is at odds with an email sent out by BLG chairman (2011.3.28)” … The BLG still hasn’t seen the documentation but proposed a project with two ex-monitor Baboon Protectors at Miller’s Point, requesting a re-think while we try it out. They thought about it but decided to go ahead. Consultation among BLG members revealed a substantial majority to let them.”  This indicates strongly that the BLG do have voting power and could influence decision – but without having seen relevant information they voted to let the authorities proceed – Fred was killed.

 In summary, a wide range of the general public – not limited to areas affected by baboons – have expressed concern and alarm at the elevated numbers of baboons killed under dubious protocols.  There is also widespread unhappiness at the lack of transparency and accountability – and there is certainly no real communication process that effectively divulges information timeously to allow flow of concerns and suggestions.

 Regards

Jenni Trethowan