John Wayne gained international recognition when he led the authorities and Jenni on a merry chase across the peninsula, which culminated in him atop a container ship in Table Bay Harbour on New Year’s Day 2008.
Jenni’s first attempt to catch him was at the Royal Cape Golf Club. She says, “Like the cunning baboon he was, he weighed up his options – he could either get into the cage or make a break across the manicured greens of the gold club. He opted for the latter, but not before he walked up to the cage, lifted it and shook the food out.”
Pursued by Baboon Matters, who wanted to return him safely to his troop, and the authorities, who simply wanted him removed – one way or another – he made his way through the heart of Cape Town and into the harbor, where he scaled a massive container ship.
Says Jenni, “I followed him up 5 stories on the ship, with a crowd of bemused sailors and policemen watching from below. We just looked at each other for a few minutes and then I said, ‘John my boy, you are now really between the devil and the deep blue sea. Either you jump into the water or you come with me.’”
John considered this for a moment and then calmly followed Jenni back down the ladders, and got into the cage, much to the astonishment of the vet who had arrived to dart him. This story illustrates so beautifully the deep bond and understanding Jenni shared with the baboons of the peninsula at the time.
Unfortunately this did not mean the end of John’s adventures, and a little while later he was again deep in the suburbs of Cape Town being chased by hordes of locals who were baying for his blood. After being relocated back to the Peninsula yet again, where he appeared to be finally settling in, he disappeared one day and was never seen again. The victim of another shooting?
Perhaps the pull to travel the migration routes his ancestors used was just too strong for John to ignore? Traditional routes across the Peninsula towards the Helderberg Mountains have long since been cut off by urban sprawl, leaving the Peninsula’s remaining troops isolated and increasingly at risk, within an ever-shrinking habitat. Will we save some space for them before it’s too late?