We did it!
Each and every one of you who emailed, telephoned, signed petitions, posted on social media,
protested, lobbied and litigated –WE ALL WORKED TOGETHER and #BroughtKatazaBack
“You don’t need to watch television, you have the
baboon channel to watch. ”
Pete Oxford, November 2020
How right Pete is! The drama of baboon management has played out in all media over this year but escalated incredibly with the ‘Katazagate’ scenario! Who would have thought that Kataza would become the most famous baboon in the world? He has been become a social-media star, a twitter trend, been seen on news features and press internationally and nationally and is known by everyone no matter where he goes.
We have watched with degrees of concern, sadness and despair as this male baboon struggled to come to terms with having been uprooted from Kommetjie and set down in Tokai to find a new troop. Our frustration and anger at the lack of transparency and lack of action from decision makers was rife and inspired animal rights activist Ryno Engelbrecht to start legal action. We protested and petitioned and far from public attention dying down, as the CoCT had hoped, interest in Kataza has always escalated and never waned.
Katazagate in a nutshell.
Kataza is one of two adult male baboons of the Slangkop troop who were moved back into the Kommetjie home-range in January 2020 after rangers had been held up and robbed whilst on duty in the Ocean View range.
Moving the troop back to Kommetjie illustrated on-going and underlying management problems such as poor communication, minimal education, little community involvement and no baboon proof bins – which should be provided by CoCT Solid Waste Dept.
There is no water on the Slangkop range in the hot, dry summer months and TMNP had not allowed any water provisioning sites so the troop started coming in to Kommetjie, essentially for water, but they quickly rediscovered “hot-spot” areas where they could access rich rewards of food found in bins or inappropriately thrown away – such as household waste being dumped into green bins designated for pedestrian use.
The entire troop utilized the easy food rewards obtained in Kommetjie, no single baboon was seen to be a more excessive opportunist than any other baboon. The troop all arrived together and were normally herded out of the village together, there are always a few stragglers but residents did not notice any factions or splitting within the troop.
In the ensuing months, residents complained about the excessive use of paintballs on the baboons and noted how the troop scattered all over the village as a result of the aggressive management.
The Slangkop troop arriving back in Kommetjie was almost immediately followed by the global Covid pandemic and national lockdown and it seems that the timing of baboons in the village, along with national stress and concerns about income, health and safety all combined into one simmering mess of tension. Baboons were injured by dogs, shot at by pellets and high velocity paintball guns – but continued to come into the village and even started sleeping in Kommetjie overnight.The Slangkop troop arriving back in Kommetjie was almost immediately followed by the global Covid pandemic and national lockdown and it seems that the timing of baboons in the village, along with national stress and concerns about income, health and safety all combined into one simmering mess of tension. Baboons were injured by dogs, shot at by pellets and high velocity paintball guns – but continued to come into the village and even started sleeping in Kommetjie overnight.
Setting the records straight
Local resident Bradley Thorsen collated data from the daily WhatsApp groups where sightings of baboons in the village are reported and noted discrepancies in the management reports, specifically with the times recorded for baboons being in the village. His expressed concerns were dismissed by the service provider as being “irrelevant” nonetheless his accurate data was able to prove when baboons had been in the village and if any baboon had accrued more misdemeanors than any other baboon. Thank you Bradley for keeping the records!
Towards the end of August I noticed that Kataza was not with his troop, at first I thought that perhaps I had just missed seeing the big lad, but I asked Bradley and Susan Litten (our Kommetjie Councilor Appointed Rep – Baboons South) to help me check. Over the next few days none of us could find Kataza. Susan queried his disappearance and we were told that Kataza had been “relocated” to Tokai – the reasons being that he was “splitting the troop”, that he was inbreeding as he should have dispersed and that he was the deemed to have the worst “raiding record”.
As this poor decision came to light baboon experts of UCT were quick to defend the Baboon Technical Team – Esme Beamish (independent researcher – ICWild) was reported as noting that Kataza was not seen consorting with the females when she completed her annual counts of the troop over a few months in 2020. Justin O’Riain (ICWild) noted that Kataza could not possibly have offspring, or that off spring would have been in utero. It was confusing to hear reports that:
- Kataza was not consorting with females of his troop, yet it was claimed that Kataza was leading a splinter group of low ranking females; perhaps this was the first platonic splinter troop in baboon history?
- Kataza was inbreeding yet is was also claimed that
- Kataza had no offspring
- George (remaining adult male of the troop) killed 5 infants (as males sometimes do commit infanticide when there is a change in dominance). So George thought Kataza had babies? A bad mistake George?
- He was not proven to be any worse than any other baboon of this habitually opportunistic raiding troop.
But despite what we, collectively, thought about the decision making or the outcome, the CoCT proved to be intractable and simply refused to answer emails, or engage to resolve the issue…. Kataza gained celebrity status as he went in and out of Pollsmoor Prison and the American Embassy while the CoCT gained notoriety status for doing nothing.
#Bring Kataza Back – #We brought Kataza back!
Here is an overview of all the actions that took place to save Kataza:
- Baboon Matters,Baboons of the South and Bradley Thorsen immediately engaged with our councillor to find an immediate solution to the situation.
- We then had out first meeting with Mayor Plato who was urged to set up a task team and resolve the matter expediently.
- BoTS and BM met with the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
- A group of quietly determined women formed themselves into a cohesive group taking shifts to ensure Kataza’s safety as he traversed the busy roads of suburbia.
- The women became known as the Angels as they undertook to keep Kataza alive whilst his future was negotiated.
- In understanding why the Angels took this action, it must be noted that the last baboon male to be relocated to Tokai was Dodger, and he lasted only 10 days before he was killed for BTTG3 offences.
- The Angels worked for over 85 days from dawn to dusk and not only kept Kataza alive but they also informed residents, dog walkers and pedestrians about “the baboon in the hood”. They took the opportunity to engage with local children and taught them about baboons.
- The Angels continued with this task despite some very aggressive attacks from the previous service management who did not want Kataza watched. The ladies were filmed and accused of feeding, herding and chasing Kataza – preventing him from integrating was a common slight.
- I did my shifts in the field alongside the Angels, had many meetings with them to hear their views, give advice and help plan the best outcome for Kataza.
There is no doubt that in the beginning there were “rookie” mistakes, after all these volunteers had never worked with baboons before, let alone a male baboon walking through the burbs; but where were the professionals? Where were TMNP rangers? CoCT traffic control? Cape Nature staff? Why didn’t baboon researchers and their students come and help?
It was easy to criticize but the Angels kept at it, learnt how better to assist and, my goodness, hearing some of the daily voice notes was the equivalent to listening to high speed drama scenes in any movie.
#Bring Kataza Back – #We brought Kataza back!
The overview of the actions that took place to save Kataza continued:
- After hearing about the plight of QKataza, concerned animal rights campaigner and activist Ryno Engelbrecht started legal proceedings to get Kataza returned to his troop.
- Toni V Brockhoven started a twitter campaign – and #Bring Kataza Back became the trending topic.
- Daina de Agrela started a petition which gained over 30 000 signatures!
- Toni V Brockhoven (United Front 4 Animals) and Kylie Wilford for arranged a hugely successful protest.
- Barbara Friedman gave all sides of the Kataza story exceptional coverage on Cape Talk.
- The CGHSPCA provided veterinary attention and assessments when Kataza was looking exhausted and stressed and again after he sustained injuries in dominance fights.
- The CGHSPCA attempted to resolve the situation by inviting all role players to a meeting however only BoTS and BM attended.
- CGHSPCA provided daily monitoring of Kataza to form their own, unbiased assessment of his integration process and sought permits from Cape Nature to relocate Kataza to Riverside in the event that this was his only option.
- Experts from all over the world gave inputs and guidance.
- Prime Crew’s Luzanne Kratz and the Riverside team of Bob, Lynne and Mias Venter travelled to Cape Town to provide support in areas they felt best able to make change.
- Thanks to proactive support from Karen De Klerk (Cape Animal Welfare Forum), Mayor Plato and members of Mayco met with CAWF, BoTS, BM and CGHSPCA. At this meeting Mayor Plato directed Aldermen Nieuwoudt to form a task team to resolve on-going baboon management issues.
- Media coverage was immense and Kataza featured on SABC2, ENCA, radio and newspapers both locally and around the world.
In essence, Kataza created the perfect storm and the combination of Ryno’s court case, the high level meetings and incredible, never waning public attention eventually resulted in the CoCT settling the court case with Ryno and resolving that Kataza should be returned to his Slangkop troop.
At no time did anyone ever forget the very real and unresolved issues of baboon management that urgently need to be reviewed and revised and this has remained our collective goal.
Kataza comes back!
Kataza was returned to his home range on 13 November and made his way across to the troop where he was seen for a short while.
We had so hoped that Kataza would simply re-join the troop however we knew that he would need a settling in period to readjust. Although Kataza’s offspring had all been killed, he still has family members and bonds within the troop but after Kataza had been away for almost 3 months and he needs time to find peace and settle down. He has been seen in close proximity to the troop on a number of occasions, but has also been spending a lot of time on his own, but at least he is in his home turf and does appear more relaxed.
We have noticed that the service providers (both past and current) made no effort to deter Kataza from entering the urban areas. When NCC started their contract they were actively making every attempt to keep Kataza out of suburbia, but now that he has been returned it seems that their efforts to deter Kataza have stopped. As the service providers follow instruction from the CoCT we can only wonder why they are not providing rangers to encourage Kataza away from human occupied space and back to his troop? It cannot be about resources and budget as Baboon Matters offered to pay for the services of two off-duty rangers to assist in this re-integration process. Needless to say, we are all watching closely and hoping for a smooth transition back to the troop.
It is Global Giving Tuesday on 1 December – that means every financial contribution you make to Baboon Matters on 01.12.20 will be matched by Global Giving.
Please support our on going efforts and Help Baboon Matters help baboons by donating via:
Changing baboon management
In communities there is more pro-active baboon action than I have ever seen!
In Kommetjie, local resident Mel Gouws quietly got on with the task of baboon proofing bins for her neighbours. She has been helped by Sally Sivewright and Sam Hodgson and the Chacma Challenge is now underway; a project to get all communities to start active baboon proofing. Each village is encouraged to start baboon proofing and a leaderboard will soon be set up to see which village is being most proactive. Contact Sally Sivewright for all details. firstname.lastname@example.org
In Simonstown resident Luana Pasanisi of the Green Group had educational signage designed and erected to warn visitors to the area that baboons live near to an increasingly popular hiking trail. Sadly, Luana was made to remove the signage by TMNP who, although they had been liaising with her for 3 years, had given no guidelines or parameters for the signage but objected that it did not comply to their regulations once it was erected.
In Bettys Bay, it was fantastic to see Bettys Bay Baboon Action Group secure the support of international icons Dr Jane Goodall (who sent two letters) and Sir David Attenborough who are advocating for better baboon management specific to Bettys Bay, but their support is equally important for all baboons.
In addition, Dr Anthony Collins(Jane Goodall Institute) supported changing human behaviour as a better management action in his radio interview on Cape Talk. BBBAG are working hard with their municipality to adopt the “Shepherd don’t shoot” approach to baboon management in their area.
During the forthcoming school holidays, Guardians of the Deep (run by Sally Sivewright) is running fun eco-education holiday program for children of areas affected by baboons. Contact Sally for further information about the Chacma Champions via:
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!
Lobbying and advocacy
In 2019 Baboon Matters and BoTS wrote to all the authorities calling for a workshop to review and revise the current management guidelines and protocols. Our appeal was taken up by Wildlife and Animal Protection Forum SA (WAPFSA) who wrote to Minister Bredel requesting a workshop to address the long standing baboon issues.
Minister Bredel instructed Cape Nature to host the workshop we attended an initial meeting hosted by Cape Nature on 13 November. It was disappointing that although the court case had been resolved, the CoCT delegate attending the meeting had been instructed not to participate in the meeting. It was equally telling that UCT delegates had, apparently, been advised by UCT not to attend this meeting.
There appears to have been a pattern over the past few meetings whereby CGHSPCA, BoTS and BM consistently pitch up with willing to resolve matters, whilst key role players opt to not attend or not participate in meetings.
End of year thoughts…
As 2020 draws to a close, we will continue to keep a close eye on Kataza and all of our baboons and continue working with all interested stakeholders to find long term solutions for these persecuted primates.
Baboon Matters thanks each and every one who has actively supported our hard work over many years and we are grateful that our role as lobbyists and advocates for baboons is providing such high levels of interest in baboons and change in both attitudes and management.
As a tiny NPO Baboon Matters is heavily reliant on public support to help us to help baboons and we are so grateful for the contributions we have received this year and we hope you will continue to support our efforts in 2021!
Have a beautiful Festive season and rest – and continue watching the baboon channels!
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