“And if Baboons could write, what book would they publish on the ways of mankind, and what would they then decide, beast or blessing” (Noel Ashton: whale artist, conservationist and co-founder of Baboon Matters in `Beast or Blessing’ by Jenni Trethowan)
What indeed are the baboons of William’s troop thinking? By now they must know that William, a charismatic male of the Scarborough Troop, a mate, a father and a brother is not coming back!! The euthanizing of `William the Conqueror’ made front page news last week. It once again brought the tricky issue of managing the chacma baboons of the South Peninsula into the limelight. The authorities explain their actions as a last resort measure to remove an animal whose raiding behaviour has gone beyond opportunistic to deliberate break-in and entry. They are concerned that a baboon as lacking in fear of humans and as determined as William to raid inside houses poses a real risk of injuring someone and of teaching members of his troop advanced raiding tactics.
Prominent local animal rights and baboon activists on the other hand are accusing the authorities of not doing enough to find non-lethal solutions for raider baboons. Certainly, when I read about William’s permanent removal from our society, I felt a deep sense of sadness and loss and I wonder if it isn’t just a matter of time before the only baboons left on this the Fairest Cape in all the world are those within Cape Point Nature Reserve .
Ultimately, the future of baboons is in the hands of ‘Joe Public’. While the authorities have the responsibility for managing wild baboons, difficult in an increasingly urbanized environment, and animal activists dedicate their time and energy to saving baboons, it is up to the public to modify their lifestyle so that baboons also have a stake in the Cape.
This is the tricky part!! So many of us want to live in this beautiful and semi-wild part of the world where we can enjoy whales and fynbos and tell stories about porcupine visitors, leopard toads and of hearing a fish eagle call. And while many of us appreciate in principle how special it is that there are still baboons living in `our mountains’, sadly most of us don’t want to be inconvenienced by them.
The price of having `our nature’ tamed could well be at the expense of the lives of the free living baboons in the South Peninsula. It is easy to blame the authorities, but it is our lifestyles that have created problems with baboons – not problem baboons. In Simon’s Town where the community took a proactive approach to baboon monitoring, they have been successful in keeping baboons out of town. Oceanview experiences minimal problems with baboons because the community does not provide an easy source of food. Each community situation is different and requires a different approach to discourage wild neighbours.
The question is: Do enough of us care sufficiently to live in a way that there is also a place for wild neighbours including the Baboons?