Save our Chacma Baboons Gathering of Concerned Citizens in the Scenic South Peninsula – 11 November, 2012

A giant baboon puppet operated by eMsantsi puppeteers moved to the rhythm provided by three djembe drummers.

Passing motorists hooted in a friendly manner and gave a thumbs-up in support of a protest against the ongoing killing of Peninsula baboons.

The goal of the gathering at the busy Fourways intersection at Sun Valley on 11 November, 2012 with a few dozen concerned citizens was to draw public attention to the fact that an alarming number of the Peninsula’s baboons have been killed in accordance with official protocols.

The first dispersing male and repeat raiders protocol was introduced in August 2009, followed by another in June 2010 to ‘reduce the frequency and severity of raiding baboons”.

This had further reaching criteria and did not exclude even alpha males from being killed.

Many residents have proved for themselves the way to stop baboons raiding or eating available food is to baboon-proof.

For example, if doors and windows, have barring and garbage bins are locked and secured upright, baboons cannot gain access. This in turn reduces the potential for conflict with baboons, related to food.

Instead of being faced with a large male baboon in their car searching for sandwiches and fruit – which while often a source of amusement for onlookers -tourists parked along the Peninsula’s scenic routes can avoid this situation simply by closing car windows and locking, not only shutting, car doors to prevent baboons gaining access to the vehicles in the first place.

Neither residents nor tourists should feed baboons, thus encouraging baboons to return to the source of food. Fines exist for both feeding and hurting baboons.

Sol, originally from Tokai, was killed in terms of the 2009 dispersing male protocol in January 2010 when coming into the Simonstown area. On 2 July 2010, William of the Scarborough troop became the first baboon killed in terms of the second protocol, initially dubbed the “secret protocol”, as members of the public were not allowed to see it, one official stating it could be used by them against the baboons. It has subsequently been posted at http://www.capenature.co.za/docs/1918/Protocol%20for%20raiding%20baboons%20(3).pdf. When William was caged trapped, residents were told the batteries in his collar were being changed.

In March 2011, Fred, the alpha male of the Smitswinkel troop was controversially killed. Fred was one of the ‘stars’ of the TV series Baboons with Bill Bailey. The British comedian and conservationist maintained that with a little bit of tolerance and a few simple measures it was possible for co-existence. Locals were shocked to see Fred once again in January 2012, this time dissected in a TV special “Rogue baboon” in the series Inside Nature’s Giants.

There has been dissatisfaction about the level of factual information available to the general public regarding baboons since 2009. This alone has not engendered an atmosphere of trust, particularly in light of the controversial decisions and killings and management techniques using aggressive “tools” like bearbangers and paintballs.

Paintballing has been introduced into local troops since 1 July, 2012. Residents in areas like Welcome Glen have seen paintballers in their streets or in the natural areas shooting at the baboons, and have complained about the modus operandi. There have also been complaints about residents’ pets being distressed by the sound of bearbangers and paintballs.

(Note: Residents can give feedback over the past months’ paintballing effect on the baboons or their pets or report future incidents they are not happy about to the SPCA Wildlife Unit. wildlife@spca-ct.co.za)

Coy Chacma baboon above Simon's Town watching Hoerikwaggo trail hikers. Photo Viv von der HeydenIn September 2012 at a public meeting, the new service provider HWS laid out future management plans of using remote controlled pepper spray, paintballers in camouflage in hides and bearbangers. Phil Richardson of HWS believes in a strategy of establishing territory boundaries including with scent marking and that it increases the impact if the baboons do not see the “tools” being operated, making them think it is “Armageddon”.

On the other hand, some believe that baboons do not have or recognize territorial boundaries, nor do they recognize or use scent marking.

Paintballing has been used at the same time previously known successful methods of herding the baboons – the whistle, shout and hah sound have been reintroduced. This method fell into some disuse in the past three years as a strategy of holding the line on the urban edge was implemented, actually allowing the baboons greater access to urban areas to raid unsecured properties. As both methods are now being used concurrently realistically success cannot be attributed to paintballing as such.

In lieu of access to official statistics, utilising data extracted from monthly monitoring service provider reports, Jenni Trethowan of Baboon Matters, says at least 24 baboons have been killed by the authorities in the past 18 months and that even more are at risk of being killed.

A brochure distributed to motorists at the protest, listed some male baboons potentially at risk of being killed, amongst others Force, Merlin, Quizzy, Lucky, Slumko. The brochure also gave the address of an online petition against the killing of baboons.

SAVE OUR BABOONS – please sign this petition now!

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Baboons_being_Killed_in_the_Cape_Peninsula_1/?cLeUdcb

Peter and Carpenter, the two adult males of the Da Gama Park fission troop were shot by SANParks at Lewis Gay dam in August and September respectively. This left the troop without male leadership.

It had been thought by officials that removing the males would cause the females and young to join the main troop but to date they have not permanently joined the Da Gama troop. This has raised concerns as to what will happen to this troop of just under a dozen baboons of females and young, should they not join this troop or another troop. Removal of fission troops was a scientific recommendation dating back to the baboon expert workshop of 2009.

There are also questions about the fate of other fission troops, now being referrerd to as splinter troops. Splinter troops are currently being portrayed as troops forming specificially to raid. This is not agreed with by other scientists and gives reason for concern that these troops could be portrayed as habituated raiders and therefore be more likely to be culled in terms of raiding protocols.

In fact in 2009, the same scientist now saying they form to raid, stated that a fission troop was the result of a successful dispersal by a male. Peter’s troop was an example of this, when after fierce fighting with then Da Gama Park alpha male George, Peter successfully dispersed from the main troop, taking three females with him to start his own troop. The troop was later joined by a male, Sebastian, who had himself dispersed from Tokai.

One of the females Peter started the troop with was Big Mama, now alpha of the troop following the culling of the males.

At the protest, residents from different baboon affected areas held up posters against the killing of the Peninsula baboons. One said “Protect our baboons”, another “Respect our baboons” . A poster asked “Killed. Why?” Another said “going, going, gone”. Some residents carried posters with comments given in a survey by Scarborough residents for not killing the baboons. A resident held a poster with a baboon head with blood on it and the words “because I’m worthless”. Her Spaniel dog had its own poster around its neck saying “animals also feel pain”.

Several people supported a large banner with a photo of Eric and the lighthouse. Eric was the well-known former leader of the Kommetjie, Slangkop troop, the oldest baboon on the Peninsula. Eric and a young male from the Da Gama troop area, Bafana, both disappeared around November 2011.

The day of the protest, 11 November 2012, marked the anniversary of the death of Noskethi, a male baboon from the Da Gama Park troop. He was allegedly shot in the back in front of monitoring staff by a Fish Hoek resident, claiming self-defense. Noskethi, known as a gentle baboon who avoided confrontation, was paralysed and put down the same day. The case has been postponed several times, and is scheduled again for 29 January, 2013. To date very few convictions have been secured for hurting baboons.

On 12 November, 2012 a meeting took place that had been organised by the SPCA between members of the BTT or Baboon Technical Team (previously the Baboon Conservation Authority) comprising the City, CapeNature and SANParks. The UCT Baboon Research Unit and Wildlife Solutions were also represented as were members of the BLG , Baboon Matters and concerned residents.

Esme Beamish of UCT told the meeting that “euthanasia is a more humane way of removing animals than retributive killings by angry members of the public” and that present management i.e. euthanasia “simulates natural predation.” However, the lack of law enforcement has long been seen as a reason for such “retributive killings”.

The facilitator of the meeting Marlene Laros urged authorities to make sure regular information was made available to the public.

Lorna Thomas

Photos also submitted by Lorna