Update on Hunting Permits in Constantia

by Jenni Trethowan

When the Constantia Bulletin broke the news on 4 July 2018 that Cape Nature had issued permits to two vineyards to hunt up to two baboons per day, there was shock and confusion – confusion as we had always believed that the Cape peninsula baboons were protected from hunting, and shock that permits issued for one year would allow 2 baboons per day to be hunted. But more than that, there was outrage that right here in our own backyards baboons were being killed by commissioned professional hunters.

Following on from a well-attended protest action and as a result of letters of demand issued by the Cape Party, Buitenverwachting voluntarily withdrew its permits, and we are told that subsequently Klein Constantia has also withdrawn their permit.

In the ensuing weeks there has been a great deal of activity but the overall situation reflects a lack of information and what seems to be a steadily increasing number of unaccounted for baboons.

Here is what we know:

When the story broke it was reported that 7 baboons had been killed and that the elderly and weak had been targeted to emulate predation. Secondary media articles noted that specific damage causing baboons had been targeted, and from communications it seems that a semi-paralyzed male, and elderly female and an “injured” baboon had been identified as “problem” baboons and were some of the seven baboons killed. It is not clear if baboons were being targeted as “damage causing” or to reduce overall numbers.

Note that at this stage we were getting information only from the media as the BTT made no public statement.

When the service provider report for June 2018 was released, there was no mention of hunting permits, only that “some baboons had been removed”. But it was noted that 20 baboons were “missing”.

The HWS July 2018 report and the Annual Report for 2018 gave updated population tables and the ground count and census undertaken in June 2018 by HWS staff. From these reports is was clear that the situation was worse than had been initially reported. The population table (pg. 10 of the Annual Report) shows that despite 37 deaths in the northern population from July 2017 – June 2018, it was expected that the population of the northern troops would be 255 baboons – yet only 211 baboons were found.

Of huge concern is the dramatic decrease in the numbers of adult male. In her census of 2015, E Beamish recorded 31 adult males, however the June 2018 count found only 7 adult males – a loss of 24 adult male baboons over 3 years!

So from initial reports of 7 baboons killed, we move from 20 “missing” baboons to now 40 “missing” baboons.

But we are also “missing” a great deal of information. I am not alone in requesting information – various animal welfare organizations, civic groups and many concerned individuals have written to all the authorities asking for facts. We have requested detail such as: minutes of meetings where is issuance of permits was discussed/agreed/debated; attendance registers and agenda; communication detailing which baboon deterrents had been trialed on the affected vineyards; why electric fences at two locations appear to have failed in comparison to the Zwaanswyk electric fence where baboons are kept out of the area for a reported 98.8% of time.

We asked for details of recorded damage caused by baboons that would have led to Cape Nature issuing seemingly unrestricted permits allowing 2 baboons to be killed per day for one year.

We have also requested detail of the hunts – when did they take place, what were the ages and sexes of baboons killed.

The Cape Animal Rights Forum has used the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) and requested specific detail. In terms of the Act, the City of Cape Town, Cape Nature and TMNP have 90 days to supply requested information, so although the request was sent weeks ago, we do not expect any detailed response until the time limit is up in October.

But the collective animal welfare organizations’ have also been proactive in offering help to try and shed some light on what the City of Cape Town has referred to as a “phenomenon” – the 40 “missing” baboons.

Baboon Matters has volunteered to count the northern troops to establish an independent ground count, and our colleagues from Prime Crew have offered their valuable time to assist – one would have thought that the TMNP and BTT would have been grateful to have had a joint team effort with experienced staff to pool their knowledge and proactively take on the immediate and necessary hours of ground work at no cost or detriment to themselves.

But our request to the BTT was deferred to TMNP, who said they had their own research personnel who could undertake the work, yet have not. Our further offer to assist was referred back to the BTT and our subsequent direct request for permission to count the troops has been ignored thus far.

We have been asked why we need permission to count the baboons. Well TMNP has made it very clear to me that all visitors to the TMNP have to remain on designated paths at all times – or face prosecution. Clearly the baboons do not remain on designated paths and so we would need access to the baboons, wherever they roam, to effectively count them.

So, in conclusion – the numbers of baboons killed or “missing” has risen from 7 to 20 to now 39 or 40 (I remain unclear on the actual final figure). We have received minimal information from the BTT and requests for an investigation into the disappearance of 40 baboons who are managed during daylight hours, 365 days per year need to be addressed.

The City officials have not answered any communications sent by Baboon Matters in the past 3 – 4 weeks.