What an extraordinary year 2020 has been!
The global pandemic and lockdown has affected all of us and I hope that you have been able to cope with the many challenges that have been coming our way.
When the Corona lockdown was announced on 23 March 2020, I wondered what impact this would have on baboons and baboon management. I was cautiously optimistic, thinking that as residents would be at home, have time on their hands and were having to be careful with food resources, this would mean that there would be a huge improvement in effective baboon-proofing of homes and general waste management, and that that in turn would make it easier for the service provider to keep the baboons out of urban areas.
Contrary to my optimistic hopes for a radical decrease in baboon activity in urban areas, the reverse happened; from WhatsApp groups (in urban areas overlapping with baboon troops) it seems that baboon activity has increased during the lockdown.
In the village of Kommetjie, where I am based, baboons have visited the urban area almost every day since the lockdown began and sadly incidents of residents shooting at baboons with pellet guns, shotguns and paintball guns increased as did the numbers of dog attacks on baboons.
NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard.
Since 2010, Baboon Matters has been fighting against the use of paintballs and bearbangers, fighting for a review and revision of the management guidelines and protocols and fighting for ethical treatment of baboons. Although we have had on-going support from many residents who come into contact with baboons, the lockdown has demonstrated the NIMBY effect so well.
There is a direct correlation to NIMBY – when the baboons are seldom seen or in an area, few residents support calls to stop the use of paintballs on baboons and only some residents voice disapproval against the use of bearbangers or are opposed to the killing of individual baboons. But now that people have been forced to stay at home and have seen the daily onslaught of paintballing baboons and witnessed the stress, pain and chaos it causes, there is a great deal more pressure being brought to bear on the decision makers of the Baboon Technical Team (comprising members of the CoCT, Cape Nature, Table Mountain National Park, iCwild and The Cape of Good Hope SPCA) as well as in community ward councilors along the Overstrand and Garden Route.
The CoCT has finally acknowledged that the green garbage bins are an ongoing attractant to baboons but are not baboon proof.
We thank the residents who wrote and complained about the bins, the residents who were proactive in removing waste and adjusting bins so that there were no food rewards for the baboons in the bins and our thanks to the CoCT for this first proactive step in resolving the waste management problems affecting baboons.
Baboon Management rolled out in Overstrand.
There is an urgent need for change to the protocols and guidelines, and this must be addressed as a priority issue especially when one considers that the flawed system currently used in Cape Town is being rolled out many other areas in the Western Cape; there is a lot of work to be done reviewing and revising the guideline and protocols.
It is of deep concern that techniques such as the Virtual Fence (see link below for details) are being implemented in the absence of any EIA or any assessment to test the impact the VF has on other wildlife, and there must be significant impact on other wildlife because if the landscape of fear has forced baboons to flee an area it stands to reason that other wildlife will have experienced similar fear and would also move off.
We would all love to find the solution that keeps baboons out of human occupied areas, but it seems to me that we need to rely as much on our own actions (sensible baboon proofing options, waste management etc) as we do “other sources”. We cannot expect monitors/rangers, paintballs, bear bangers, electric fences or Virtual Fences to be effective if we are continuously leaving food in waste or providing attractants through our lifestyle choices.
There needs to be a comprehensive approach and co-operative planning whereas we are currently dealing with lack of transparency and selective participation processes.
Kommetjie residents recently participated in an on-line survey, it was interesting to note that there was a lot of support to stop the use of paintballs and great support for a workshop. The full results of the survey can be seen at this link
(Anyone with the dropbox link should be able to access all the files)
For Information about the Virtual Fence follow this link.
Ethical Treatment of baboons
In areas where paintballs and bearbangers are deployed, residents have observed what they notice to be increased stress levels and we have all witnessed baboons either limping after having been hit with a paintball or rubbing the affected area; we cannot see the injuries as the baboons’ thick hair hides any obvious bruising and we would not see internal injuries.
Although we have raised our concerns to the various organisations we have had little success in moderating or preventing the use of either paintballs or bearbangers, so it was very interesting to read an article in National Geographic where the impacts of non-lethal weapons used to control crowds in the recent protest actions in USA were analyzed. (see link below)
Of particular interest were comments about paintball guns and use of sound explosions as deterrents :
On the use of rubber bullets:
Jennifer Stankus, a clinical faculty physician at the Madigan Army Medical Center Department of Emergency Medicine, likens it to getting shot with a paintball gun. Yet serious injuries from rubber bullets have been reported throughout their history. Studies of their use in the conflict in Kashmir have shown that rubber bullets can cause fractures,
Baboon Matters has been told by a reliable source that in 2016 – 18 rangers working with the southern troops were commonly firing between 20 000 – 30 000 paintball markers at baboons monthly. An average of 1000 paintballs fired per day.
In the northern troops between 60 000 – 70 000 paintballs were fired at baboons monthly.
Notably, in one particular month when baboons were experiencing food scarcity after a fire had swept through their home range some months prior, 100 000 paintballs were fired at baboons to keep them out of urban areas.
Please note that this information has not been verified.
On the use of sound deterrents:
“Noise is a common tactic for clearing people out of an area, says Richard Neitzel, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who studies the effects of noise exposure.”
More concerning, he says, are the potential effects of flash-bang grenades. These emit sounds upward of 170 decibels, which can cause immediate ear injury to anyone standing nearby—a risk that increases with the number of explosions.
The bearbangers deployed to scare baboons away from urban areas have decibel levels of 160 decibels, compared to the 170 decibel of the flash-bang grenades used to disperse crowds.
From the internet we discovered the following information:
It is clear from the National Geographic article that non-lethal methods of managing people do have potential to cause injury and yet we are using very similar tactics on baboons daily.
Around the world animal welfare advocates are examining management methods and working on laws and protection of wildlife and animals so that there are more humane methods in place – it is high time that the scientific advisors and the decision makers of the BTT review the “fear of landscape” tools and work towards meeting better management practice.
Paintball marker clear on the young baboon.
Injuries and deaths of baboons
A recent community meetings presentations made by icwild indicated that numbers of baboons killed through human actions was at it lowest under the management of the current service provider – as it should be with the staff and budgets available to prevent baboons coming into urban areas.
Despite the efforts of the HWS team, baboons are still being killed and injured and it is alarming to note that for the current year there are more recorded deaths than births.
The HWS population table shows that over the 7 years of their management, the total increase in the baboon population is 81 baboons in the 11 managed troops; this means that, on average, each troop is increasing by just one baboon per year.
Of course some troops show higher growth rates than others, but the Misty Cliffs troop has been eliminated completely, Zwaansvyk troop has decreased by 8 baboons and the CT1 & 2 troops have increased by only 1 baboon.
In her 2009 thesis, E. Beamish noted that the average annual mortality rate was 9%, but in the 2019 HWS Annual Report the annual death rate was averaged at 12%. It will be very interesting to compare the current count which was recently completed by E. Beamish of icwild, with the count undertaken by HWS field staff in 2019. We look forward to seeing the data.
Injuries and treatment for baboons
There have been a recent spate of injuries to baboons, most notably was the case of Twiggy. Twiggy had suffered untreated mange and an untreated abscess, and then brutal bite wounds inflicted by dogs; Twiggy received no veterinary treatment and she and her young 7 – 8 month juvenile daughter were both “euthanised” instead of protocols being followed.
There was also a tragic case of where the only adult male of the GoB troop was fatally injured in a suspected MVA and he too was euthanised.
In other cases, baboons were attacked by dogs and the young female Betty suffered a head trauma that caused significant swelling to both eyes and she lost the right eye completely. No veterinary treatment was given.
Stretch suffered major head trauma and severe wounds to his right arm.
Twiggy suffered untreated hair loss, abscess and suffered injuries
inflicted by dogs. Both she and her daughter were euthanized.
Baboon Matters and funding
Many NGO’s and organisations are battling with the implications of the global pandemic and resultant economic recessionary period, and so too is Baboon Matters. Our fund raising initiatives had to be put on hold as we could not do the printing and distribution of t-shirts and bags that we had planned.
We are so aware that it is a very tough environment but we do rely on support from the general public for us to continue our work for baboons and hope that you will continue to be one of our donors.
If you are able to assist Baboon Matters the 15 of July is a perfect day to help;
On the 15 July our friends at Global Giving will be matching all donations!
DONATE THIS 15th of JULY!
Please support Baboon Matters by making a donation via: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/stop-killing-baboons/
We are thrilled that Professor Lesley Green focused her sharp mind and dynamic thinking in a way that included baboons. Lesley’s latest publication “Rock Water Life” is a book everyone should read and we hope that her thoughts and narrative influence the much needed change in many ways,but particularly for the baboons.
Rock Water Life is available from the Book Lounge in Cape Town and all major online book sales.
Lesley Green is deputy director of Environmental Humanities South. She is Professor of Anthropology in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and was a Fulbright Fellow at the Science and Justice Research Centre at U.C Santa Cruz in 2018.
Waste management – Clean-up!
It was brought to our attention that during lockdown (in addition to usual roadside littering!) there had been a build-up of dumping that was attracting baboons to rummage through the waste.
Kommetjie and Scarborough residents were fantastic and the area was quickly cleared of tons of rubbish.
Sadly people continue to throw household trash, garden waste and fast food wrappings all over our scenic routes. Our campaign to #Stowit Don’t Throw it is being widely shared but we really to need to reach even more people.
After nearly 20 years we are facing closure due to lack of funding! Please consider making a donation to enable us to continue working for baboons in crisis!
Baboon Matters Donation Options:
SMS: Baboons 42646
Donate via: http://baboonmatters.org.za/donate/
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