Cape Town baboon management:  How legal is it?

Cape Town baboon management: How legal is it?

The legalities of Baboon management in Cape Town

by Jenni Trethowan

Towards the end of 2017, in response to our on-going requests for information, we heard that the existing protocols were being reviewed and would be available for public comment in early 2018.

Based on communication between Baboon Matters and the City of Cape Town, we were cautiously optimistic –  the protocol was being reviewed and one of the most pressing, on-going issues (that of waste management) was finally going to be addressed as a critical step in resolving baboon-related conflicts.

But the start of 2018 seemed eerily like a scene from a “Ground Hog Day” type movie – the scenario where the same situation plays out over and over again until eventually there is understanding and change.

The year started with Dodger being killed in terms of the protocol, and the response from residents of both Tokai and Capri, where Dodger had been encountered most commonly, was that of fury – how had well-intentioned calls to alert the service provider as to Dodger’s whereabouts been turned into “assertive raids” and “complaints” that resulted in the death of this gentle baboon?

Many residents wrote to the City of Cape Town stating their anger at the decision, and demanded an explanation and information about the proposed changes to the protocol. The official response from the Baboon Technical Team (made up of representatives from the City of Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park and Cape Nature) was to inform complainants that the new protocol would be released to the Baboon Liaison Group (the BLG represents residential associations) at their first meeting in 2018, rather than undertaking a public participation process before the protocol was adopted.

This all sounds terribly rational and it seems that all the boxes are ticked, but what is really happening behind the scenes?  The BLG should be reporting back to residents – yet, in response to a request for information, the chairman of the group has stated that “As chairman of the BLG, the policy is to confine communications to the other civic associations which are members of the BLG. Questions such as you raise below, should be referred to the managing authorities.”

It is not clear how the BLG communicates with the civic associations other than relying on area representatives who do attend some meetings to report back to some resident committee meetings.

The minutes of BLG and BTT meetings are not available to the general public – despite the fact that all of the members on the BLG and BTT represent residents or are paid civil servants and should be accountable to the public.

A point of concern is that members of the BLG are simply not prepared to disclose any information regarding meetings or decisions made within BLG meetings, and frequently our “area reps” get current information about baboons from “other sources” and not the BTT.

It is equally vexing that few residents know who their particular “area rep” actually is – and requests for a list of these and their contact details are met with stony silence.

The question of legality and responsibility for baboon management has been a hot potato since Wally Petersen first drew attention to the plight of  baboons in 1990 and the reality is that NONE of the relevant authorities want to be held accountable for baboon management.  The Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) argues that baboons are safe on their land and can stay there, and that if the residents have a problem with baboons in urban areas the City must be held accountable.  The City argues that TMNP should keep the baboons “in the park”  and out of villages – and so the argument goes back and forth.

When the City of Cape Town took the matter to the high court for a final legal ruling, the judge was persuaded by arguments detailing a “co-operative management agreement” between the authorities, and so he left the City with the financial burden. The other partners of the BTT got off scot-free as there is no written management plan and no written agreements, in fact the only  written document we can find is a single protocol  – “PROTOCOL for reducing the frequency and severity of raiding behaviour by chacma baboons on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa”.  In essence then, the only protocol for managing our baboons is the one that allows them to be killed.

It seemed to me that the high court judgement was illogical and perpetuated an unpalatable state of affairs, but I was not thinking like a member of the BTT – as a member of the BTT, the lack of written agreement, lack of management plan etc, is actually quite useful for the very reason that there is no legal accountability.

It is very confusing when we read press statements issued by the BTT as the media articles commonly refer to protocols (plural).  In a project of this size and scope, and with a budget of over R10 million pa, we would expect to see protocols for aspects such as training, skills development, care for sick and injured baboons, education, waste management etc.  But despite our numerous requests to see these documents (any documents….) we have consistently been referred back to the single protocol detailed above.

When we challenge the protocol and decisions resulting in the deaths of more baboons, we are informed that the protocol is “just a management guideline” – it has no legal standing. From monthly service provider reports, we cannot see how removing “problem baboons” has solved on-going raiding, in fact the December 2017 report showed that 12 “raiding baboons” had been killed in 2017 – an increase on the number of baboons killed in the previous 3 years.

This year started with the death of Dodger, making him the 70th baboon killed under the protocol, and unless we change the way dispersing male baboons are managed Dodger will be just one of an escalating number of male (and female) baboons killed under this flawed management guideline.

The protocol lists several mitigating circumstances, but to concerned residents these mitigating factors do not appear to be applied consistently. It seems that the system is merely a rubber-stamping method to “legitimately” get rid of “problem baboons”.  It is the Wildlife Advisory Committee (WAC) of Cape Nature who issues permits allowing baboons to be killed, but they maintain that not all requests for “removal” are approved, that each case is decided on its own merits and that mitigating circumstances are taken into consideration.

The WAC has the task of considering the case history of baboons that have been identified as problematic and based on their judgement either issues or declines permits for “problem baboons” to be killed.  The mitigating circumstances such as waste management, drought or fire-impacted landscapes do not have to be applied if WAC so decides, rather the “body of evidence” is weighed up and assessed.

On the face of it, we could assume that NO baboons should be killed under the protocol as waste management issues remain the highest cause of raiding behavior (from a review of all baboon raids recorded by HWS from October 2012 to Dec 2015) and waste management is a mitigating circumstance listed in three separate areas under the Protocol.

But before we head off and protest outside Cape Nature offices, consider the loopholes throughout this system – starting with poor waste management by residents, businesses and the City of Cape Town.

In addition, the Table Mountain National Park does not legally require permits to kill baboons on its land.  Rather, the TMNP has rules and regulations that allow them to make management decisions affecting the interests of state-owned national parks.

In effect, the TMNP has been killing baboons on behalf of the CoCT for many years now – Peter, Carpenter, Tammy, JJ, Moby, Sparky………the list goes on. These are baboons  shot by TMNP snipers on TMNP land for “raiding behavior” that happened in urban areas -i.e. City of Cape Town land.  So much for baboons being safe on TMNP land then?

When we made a request through the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) to see the TMNP instructions and staff orders regarding the killing of baboons, our requests were denied and deferred to the City of Cape Town, even though the City cannot order TMNP staff to kill baboons.

In recent months and weeks we have been directing concerns – concerns now boiling over to outrage – to the City of Cape Town because the City is the authority who controls the budget, the City runs the tender process and should be ensuring that the project is well run.

But, in fact, all the members of the BTT are complicit, and unless we want to see this groundhog day scenario repeat over and over we have to change the process now.

Co-operative management agreements are useful for press and media statements and can certainly be used to make it appear that both the BLG and the BTT are working effectively and progressively for the well-being of our baboons, but unless there is accountability, the co-operative management disappears faster than water from Cape Town dams.

The current project is not without merit, but aspects of concern (such as water points for the baboons in this drought, veterinary care for sick and injured baboons, skills development for the rangers and a non-lethal approach to management) need to be addressed and a full management plan signed off by all members of the BTT.

Concerned residents and stakeholders have to be allowed to affect change to the protocol and be part of the drafting of a management plan for our baboons – this cannot be left to the authorities whose main aim is to dodge responsibility and hide behind the co-operative management façade.

We cannot rely on the Baboon Liaison Group to represent our concerns since this is not transparent and there is little communication from the BLG to residents.

So, it is going to be difficult to hold the BTT accountable to ethical and effective management for our baboons without full, energetic support from the residents, residents’ associations, businesses and tourism – as well as all animal welfare groups.

The process starts with you – if you are reading this, you are a stakeholder who can insist on change, and the changes need to apply to all the villages across the Western Cape and South Africa.

If we want to see baboons in the landscape in the future, the change starts now in 2018, any later is too late.

 

ADDENDUM:  On 10th February, just as we were due to publish this newsletter, the BTT, via their Facebook page Baboons of Cape Town, posted the new draft guidelines or protocols for baboon management in Cape Town.  

The lack of detail contained in these protocols, which the BTT admits have no legal standing and are to be considered as guidelines for day to day management,  serves to further demonstrate the urgent need for a proper management plan by which the BTT can be held accountable.The BTT claims that these protocols are aimed at encouraging socially responsible behavior by residents in baboon-affected areas, yet there is no detail on how this will be done –  there is no mention in the protocols for improved waste management, education of residents, improved training of monitors, training on paintball guns. 

 On the positive side, the BTT admits that the drafts are “evolving management tools”  but it is concerning that  the two important supporting documents (BTT Doc 1 and BTT Doc 2)  that the protocols refer to are still only classified as “work in progress” – it seems that  the priority should be  that there is a full management plan in place first, with areas of accountability signed off by all members of the BTT, including the TMNP.  Once there is an agreed  management plan “evolving management tools” would have more gravitas.

Update 14th February: The Baboon Technical Team (BTT) today informed the Baboon Liaison Group (BLG) that the meeting scheduled for 22nd Feb has been postponed, with no new date set.

You can view the draft protocols here

If, like us, you feel that baboon management in Cape Town needs to incorporate ethical treatment of these primates, to focus on managing waste which results in raiding, and not just on keeping baboons away from humans no matter the cost to baboons, please email [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected] 

 

2018’s first baboon victim has been killed.

2018’s first baboon victim has been killed.

2018’s first victim of Cape Town’s flawed protocol for “removing” problem baboons has been killed.

by Jenni Trethowan

Dodger was a young dispersing male from the Slangkop troop who first showed up in the Da Gama troop home range in October. Dispersing to new troops is vital to keep troop gene pools strong – even more so on the Peninsula where traditional migration routes on or off the Peninsula have long been cut off by urban sprawl.

His attempts to join the Da Gama troop and oust the current alpha were marked by some typical fights – in the wild he would have retreated away from the troop to recover and re-strategise before his next attempt, but in Cape Town, with ever-shrinking natural habitat, the only place he could retreat to was the urban edge of Capri. Under normal circumstances this process of joining a new troop can take many months, but our males are simply not given enough time to settle down.

At the beginning of December, he was trapped and we were told he would be tagged and collared and released again, but we subsequently learnt that the authorities had planned euthanise him – it was only because of the concern expressed publicly by many people that he was instead relocated to Tokai.

Of course he never stood a chance there, and it was only a matter of time before his luck ran out. Plucked from familiar territory and placed somewhere completely un-known, he was given less than a month to settle down with a new troop in the North. We have heard of males moved from pillar to post and given even less time to settle before being killed.

The protocol for dealing with these males urgently needs to change! This systematic removal of dispersing males will have disastrous consequences for the genetic health of our troops. Our repeated requests to see census figures, particularly male vs female and female vs immature ratios, are routinely ignored – these figures are vital to establish whether our troops are indeed as healthy as the authorities would like us to believe.

For many years Baboon Matters has been the lone voice calling for the ethical treatment of our precious baboons, but there is now a growing anger amongst residents who don’t like what is going on. The authorities believe the baboons must be kept away from humans at all costs, even if it means they must be killed – but we know that residents have more tolerance than the authorities give them credit for.

The protocol for removing raiding baboons is currently under review, and now is the time to make your voice heard! We ask you all to please join us in calling for change – please email [email protected] and have your say!

 

Baboon Matters heads North

Baboon Matters heads North

Baboon Matters heads North

by Jenni Trethowan

By now anyone who knows me, knows that I love baboons and that I love to see baboons in the wild.
People who travel with me need endless patience as I make them turn back, or reverse and stop as I delight in sightings of baboons. I marvel at the moms, count the kids and consider the strength of the male baboons. Baboons make me feel joy, so you can imagine my excitement and enthusiasm at the thought of finding baboons up in the far western and northern Cape provinces as we embarked on our recent road trip.

Sadly (astonishingly?), despite travelling over 3000km, we only spotted baboons on four occasions – one sighting of a few skinny baboons outside of Springbok, a small troop outside of Kathu, a lovely looking troop near to Postmasberg and then a few scattered members of a small troop near the Swartberg Mountain pass.We travelled along national roads, farm roads and dirt roads, and travelled from dawn to dusk – all options were covered so one would have thought we would see baboons, right? Not only was it disappointing for me when we saw so few baboons, it is also deeply worrying – where are the baboons?

Across the country, specific areas report “population explosions” or high densities of baboons “above the normal range” – firstly what is the normal range for baboons in a land as diverse in biodiversity as South Africa, and secondly, how are the baboon numbers being monitored? Do any of the conservation authorities actually know how many baboons they have in the different provinces? If not, how can “bag limits” and lethal management options even be considered?

From our observations on this short trip, which I admit was in no way a scientific expedition, I would suggest that far from being abundant, baboon numbers appear to down.
It seems logical that baboons will congregate where there is food and water – especially in the face of one of the worst droughts in over a 100 years. So perhaps farming areas and plantations are not seeing an increase in numbers of baboons, but are seeing fragments of baboon troops coming together into areas where they can find food and water.

The Kelly vehicle had been “branded” with Baboon Matters logos for the trip and of course we all wore our “baboon gear” as we were working, so it was clear who we were and a lot of people engaged with us; asking about our work and telling us about their encounters with baboons. One lovely farmer from the Bloemfontein area reported that for the first time in living memory a small group of 6 baboons had recently found their way to their farm – and the farmer was delighted to see them. The straggling bunch of baboons are doing no damage – just roosting in trees, drinking from the reservoir and eating from the veld.

We are currently busy with reports from the trip and will shortly offer a comprehensive overview of the workshops and the meetings, but whilst looking through some of the images, it was the photographs taken in Dingleton that I thought best illustrated the plight of baboons in South Africa. The photos show a beautiful young male perched atop a post, mine dumps in front, razor wire below and a derelict village behind.
This photo is just an analogy for baboons everywhere; there is rapid encroachment – whether it be mines, farms, plantations or urban sprawl. We are in the midst of the worst recorded drought across the country so everyone is suffering but it just seems that some suffer less equally than others.

Perhaps, maybe, we can put aside outdated categorizations of baboons; perhaps if we stop vilifying them and instead work towards comprehensive solutions, we can find a way to live alongside each other?
I believe that the drought, the pressure on the land and the desperate need for change can result in positive shifts in thinking. I hope that our opportunistic primate cousins can survive the current onslaught, it would be a dreadful day when we simply don’t see baboons anywhere anymore and no longer hear the resonant sound of baboons barking in the mountains and fields……….

“Baboons make mess”

“Baboons make mess”

How is it possible that despite a budget of R10 million pa, well-resourced staff and the full support of the Baboon Technical Team members (being the City of Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park, Cape Nature, the Baboon Research Unit of UCT and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA) baboons are still “raiding” in villages?

“Baboons make mess”

(Front page Peoples Post 29 August 2017)
The banner headline of local southern peninsula newspaper People’s Post today notes that “Baboons make mess” in Simonstown. The article notes that residents, shop owners and the navy personnel have experienced an increase in baboon activity to the point whereby “theft from private homes, as well as businesses, is a concern. The raiding of the public bins is leaving litter”. How many times have we seen this sort of article in Cape Town media over the past 50 years? Take away the date and one could almost substitute this article for one written in 1931.

How is it possible that despite a budget of R10 million pa, well-resourced staff and the full support of the Baboon Technical Team members (being the City of Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park, Cape Nature, the Baboon Research Unit of UCT and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA) baboons are still “raiding” in villages?
We have been fed an ongoing propaganda of research and theory whereby the “landscape of FEAR” was implemented – baboons were collared to show where they are, what they are doing and where they went, bear bangers have been deployed and the baboons have been mercilessly paintballed to chase them away from areas that fall within the “landscape of fear”. (Of concern are the many reports from residents complaining that baboons are paintballed excessively in areas well away from villages.
Where exactly does the “landscape of fear” begin and end?)

More despicable than the aggressive management options, however, are the lethal methods of management that were stringently implemented by the BTT from 2012.
62 so called problem baboons have been killed since the execution of the protocol. A recent review by Baboon Matters proved that removal of individual baboons has not solved the raiding – in fact in many instances, within two months after the removal of an individual baboon, raiding increased in one or more of the identified raiding categories (see graph below)
In most cases, the baboons tagged as being problematic are dominant males. By continually removing the dominant males the troop hierarchy is negatively impacted, and the troop is kept in a semi-permanent state of stress as the remaining males, or new in-coming males, fight for dominance. In these high stress conditions infanticide increases, with the result being that although we note “more” babies when we do see the baboons, we have to balance our field observations with the knowledge that many infants may have been killed through the increase in troop stress, so we are not seeing a population growth, but rather a troop in chaos.
The latest service provider report notes that for the period January to July 2017, there were 11 births in southern troops compared to 14 deaths; in other words, an overall decrease of 3 baboons.

Of interest, is that since 2012, the overall numbers of baboons in the southern troops has only increased by 10 baboons. It seems quite alarming that over six troops and in the five-year period since the service provider gained the contract in 2012, there has only been an increase of 10 baboons – that is an increase of less than 2 baboons per troop for the Southern troops over a 5-year period. Yet we are told continually that we have a “healthy, growing population”.
The idea of bringing dispersing males from other troops into troops such as the Waterfall troop may have some merit as it would benefit the marginalized gene pool, but this could only be a benefit if the males are allowed time to settle in and the troop to regroup.
Using the Waterfall Troop as an example, the dominant male Bongo was killed for trouble he reportedly caused and a new male, Douglas, was “imported“ from Tokai. Accounts from residents of both Tokai and Simons Town indicate that Douglas was a really gentle baboon who spent a great deal of time with the juveniles (frequently he was referred to as “Douglas and the juvvies”). But when confronted with the abundant waste and easy rewards of the Simons Town scenario, Douglas soon joined the troop in their forays into the navy canteen and barracks. Who could blame him? An easy loaf of bread from the navy quarters versus a hard day digging for fynbos on the fire ravaged mountains…
So Douglas was also killed.

City of Cape Town Mayco member Brett Herron explained “The reports reflect an increase in raiding in the Waterfall area as a result of infighting among males in the group and poor waste management by humans” and concludes by saying that “improved waste management by humans at these locations has not to date been addressed and no solutions have yet been implemented”.
How damning and what an incredibly poor response to both the humans and baboons. It is unacceptable for residents who pay over R10 million p.a. of rate payers money for a project that has yet to address the issues, and more importantly how absolutely inexcusable that so many baboons (62) have been killed, such upheaval created amongst the troops as the BTT chases notions of a landscape of fear instead of getting to the core of the issue – being waste management.

Baboon Matters has been requesting meetings with the City of Cape Town’s Brett Herron since February 2017. We are told that despite the fact that the CoCT runs the tender process and employs the service provider, they are not accountable for management of baboons – this being a joint responsibility held by the BTT.
It may be argued that TMNP should “keep the baboons in the national park” and perhaps there should be a joint responsibility between the CoCT and TMNP, but the facts remain, the main reason that baboons come into conflict with humans is in their efforts to secure easy food rewards. The vast majority of the easy food rewards are found in our dustbins and waste because humans are an incredibly wasteful species. There can be no argument, managing waste is a municipal function – and if there were better by-laws, fines and systems in place the food available to baboons from our waste would be significantly reduced. It would be ideal if the City of Cape Town implemented better waste management strategies in areas where there is on-going baboon conflict, but every resident and visitor to the area also has a responsibility to manage their waste and to baboon-proof their bins.

It is sad to note that this week marks the 5-year anniversary of the death of Peter and Carpenter, baboons who were shot and killed by TMNP as they had been deemed to be “problem baboons”. Far from resolving the raiding problems in Da Gama Park, the deaths of Peter and Carpenter simply created troop upheaval, increased infanticide and the net result being that baboons of that troop now break into small groups of younger baboons who are adept at getting in and out of Welcome Glen and Da Gama quickly to secure their easy rewards of human foods.

Five years after the death of Peter and Carpenter, the patterns remain – aggressive management, lethal management but in the words of Councilor Herron “improved waste management by humans at these locations has not to date been addressed and no solutions have yet been implemented”.

Cartoon: With thanks to our talented friend Chip Snaddon, who helped us illustrate the futility of spending money on high-tech collars so that managers know exactly where the baboons are at all times, yet nothing is done to address the underlying cause of raiding – poor waste management.

(click graph to expand to full size)

Graph: Red triangles show where one (or more) baboons have been killed in Southern troops. Yellow line shows number of raids – it is clear that removing “problem raiders” so they don’t teach raiding behaviour to other baboons does not reduce frequency of raiding by the rest of the troop!

Being a Baboon Dad

Being a Baboon Dad

Being a Baboon Dad

A beautiful image of George Baboon posted on the Baboon Matters page on Father’s Day got me thinking about what it’s like to be a baboon father. Chacma baboons live in strictly hierarchical families and while it may be tough being a low ranking baboon, troops are also incredibly loyal and if one baboon is in trouble, the whole family will come to her defense.

I was lucky to get to meet George and his family when Baboon Matters was still able to offer the walking tours. I got to sit on a hilltop with Jenni and the troop and watch them go about their day. George baboon was a particularly gentle boy and a very loving father. The life of a baboon father, even then, was very different than what it might have been for one living out in the bush with only natural threats lurking: leopards, droughts, rival males. George had bigger things to worry about like houses being built higher and higher on the mountain, roads and cars and unfriendly dogs. Things he probably didn’t understand very well and could do very little about. But with his family on the hilltop he had some peace.

Winds have changed and there is now new management and new protocols in place. The Cape Peninsula has become a very scary world to live in for baboon fathers. The protocol means that all adult male baboons who are repeat raiders and show no response to aggressive aversion tactics are allowed to be ‘euthanized’. This started with lone males and alpha males and has spread to all males and now females as well. The theory behind the protocol being that by removing ‘naughty’ baboons they won’t get a chance to teach the good baboons how to be bad baboons.

The fundamental problem with this protocol, one that Baboon Matters has been pointing out for years, is that the dominant baboon is not raiding because he is the only one who knows how to raid, he is raiding because he is the only one who is allowed to raid. Chacma baboon society is structured around hierarchy and food and therefore it’s the highest-ranking baboon, not the worst behaved one, who gets to dominate the food source. And with poor waste management and houses that aren’t baboon proofed that food source might be in someone’s bin or on their kitchen counter.

Fred baboon was a prime example of this flawed logic. Fred was an alpha male baboon who had been getting into cars to steal food from tourists (tourists who has previously fed him and continued to leave their windows open and doors unlocked). So the authorities decided to load him in a truck and get him put down. Jenni and I went to the vet where we knew they were holding him but they insisted we leave. Fred’s death was a great loss for his family and I felt it deeply too. Did this brutal method of management work? No it did not because now without Fred enforcing the hierarchy Force and Merlin, two other big males, could help themselves to the goodies they could find in cars. This means a father who cared deeply about his family and was taken from them and killed unnecessarily. Besides severely disrupting troop structure killing an alpha male also leaves the infants vulnerable to infanticide from a new male coming in.

There is a lot that is scary and unpredictable in this world for baboon fathers today and I realize that this is a situation that many human fathers encounter as well. Feeling like you might not be able to protect your family is a terrible feeling and one I wish no father ever had to experience. What if instead of trying to create a ‘landscape of fear’ those with power focused on creating greater security and safety for all primates, human and non-human alike?
That’s a world George baboon would have approved of.


Written by Noelle Oosthuizen

Raccoon and Baboon:  Not so different

Raccoon and Baboon: Not so different

Raccoon and Baboon: Not so different

On a recent trip to Toronto it dawned on me that the Raccoon is to Toronto what the Baboon is to Cape Town. Though smaller, some say cuter, and found in much larger numbers, the raccoon is at the centre of animal-human conflict in Toronto much the same way as the baboon in Cape Town. Rummaging through dustbins and spilling their contents, getting into garages and even houses raccoons and baboons seem like they collaborated on their plan to inconvenience their urban neighbour.

Opposable thumb or not, both raccoons and baboons have made themselves the waste-menaces of their respective cities. In Toronto raccoons raid bins at night and move into attics and basements when nobody is looking. The small bandits move in groups and are ingenious at getting into waste receptacles where easy rewards can be found. Cape Town’s baboons play by the same rule book but with the addition of a nimble first digit and distinct size advantage perhaps baboons have the upper hand. The clever primates get into waste like it was placed on the curb just for them. Both animals search out human waste to meet their nutritional needs without having to look for food the hard way. It is so much easier to look in your bin for the wealth of food we humans throw away as opposed to tirelessly searching for edible vegetation. How many of us opt for fast food? It’s quite obvious really.

So what does Toronto understand that Cape Town has yet to grasp? It’s a waste problem, not an animal one. Toronto, as part of its extensive waste management programme, has taken both logistical, legal and educational steps to manage their humans. Yes, that’s right, the humans and not the raccoons. The truth of the matter is the raccoons are only a problem because humans fail to manage their waste. Through the city-wide provision of raccoon-proof bins for organic waste the cunning nocturnal raiding antics of the sly raccoons have been effectively foiled.

Granted, baboons are a little larger and their teeth are a little scarier, but meet a raccoon at night and I bet you will be running in the opposite direction. Baboons have the same modus operandi, they help themselves to the food waste we make available in our wheelie bins. The City of Cape Town has provided baboon-proof bins to many residents in areas frequented by baboons but there are many more homes who still do not have them. Furthermore, though the bins are meant to be baboon proof the baboons have figured a way around the gravity lock. With their primate dexterity they are one up on their trans-Atlantic friends making the most of incorrectly closed bins and an design that needs to be revisited.

Photo Credit: www.brettcolephotography.com – Garbage on Brett Cole

It is clear that Cape Town lags a step or three behind Toronto in their waste management. Sure, the budget is bigger, the infrastructure better, but regardless, Toronto does one simple thing that Cape Town does not do: they comprehensively manage their organic waste. Yes, the City of Toronto collects organic waste as part of their recycling programme, but it is even more basic than that. Toronto communicates, has legislated and enforces proper waste management. It is not acceptable to put organic waste in a wheelie bin that is not raccoon-proof. If incorrectly packaged your waste will not be collected and a meaningful fine can be issued.

The City of Cape Town has not yet realised that it is not about the baboons, well not most of the time anyway. Though baboons may be a little more mischievous than raccoons it is more about managing the waste than it is about chasing the baboons up into the mountains. There is definitely a place for Baboon Monitors on our urban edge but there is a greater need for effective management of organic waste and enforcement of meaningful waste by-laws.

Raccoons and baboons will always look for easy food, that is not going to change. What we need to realise in Cape Town, and throughout Southern Africa, is that it is not just about what baboons do but also, maybe even more, about what we do.

It is time for the City of Cape Town to step forward and set an example for other primate-human conflict areas.
It’s time we all look at our own behaviour first and foremost and manage our natural environment from there.