Help Baboon Matters help baboons!
It is amazing to think that we are almost three-quarters of the way through 2022 and with people already making end-of-year plans I thought it was high time to get our newsletter out. What an incredibly busy and bizarre year this has been, quite surreal in many respects as the City of Cape unilaterally, and unexpectedly, announced that as of June 2023 there will be no more rangers managing the 11 urban baboon troops.But let’s start at the beginning of the year:
TRAGEDY FOR ARABELLA TROOP
Kleinmond fire and Arabella baboons2022 started with the horrific Kleinmond fires which started in an old pine plantation owned by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment. The fire swept across the mountains destroying 5400 hectares of vegetation and devastating the home range of the Arabella troop. Concerns were expressed about the safety of the troop who were initially reported to be coping, but when photographer Michael Green spotted badly burned female dragging herself across the road, we went back to find the troop and check for ourselves. What we found was heartbreaking as between 9–13 baboons had badly burnt hands and feet. Baboon Matters worked closely with the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, Sunel Visser (of Kleinmond) Gerda Wilkins and Liz Potgieter (of Pringle Bay). The hard-working and energetic Greyton Baboon Monitors provided invaluable help and those fit young men covered many, many kilometres of tough terrain in extreme weather conditions trying to find the injured animals. The story of the Arabella troop does need to be told in more detail, but for this newsletter, I will summarize by saying that we managed to capture only one young female with badly burnt hands; Kelly was treated at the CGHSPCA and successfully released back to her troop. As to the other badly (critically) injured baboons, we never saw them again… There were no traces of their bodies, nor of recovering baboons; one afternoon they were in the area and the next morning, they were gone never to be seen again. We have searched the area minutely for any clues but to date, the disappearance of the burnt Arabella baboon remains an unsolved mystery.
MANAGEMENT OF THE BABOON HUMAN INTERFACE
City of Cape Town terminates the Urban Baboon Project
On the 8th of April 2022, video footage taken at a CoCT biodiversity meeting went viral as media liaison spokesperson Kay Montgomery announced that the “activists had won” and that the City of Cape Town was terminating the baboon ranger project. The bombshell created immediate concern and chaos as the service provider was informed that their contract would not be renewed at the end of June 2023 and residents were made aware of the proposed changes through media press releases by Alderman Eddie Andrews. For the first time in many years, a national minister of the environment decided to step in to resolve the years-old baboon debate; Minister Barbra Creecy hosted a public meeting and instructed SANParks to sort the problem out.The three decision-makers (City of Cape Town, SANParks and Cape Nature) have been unable to resolve their legal mandates and responsibilities since the park was proclaimed in 1998. However, on instruction from Minister Creecy, they duly reformed a new task team and are apparently working on terms of reference, strategic management plans etc. While the authorities are working behind closed doors on resolving their issues (which should have been sorted out after a high court judgement handed down in 2015) the CoCT engaged with residents through a series of area-specific zoom meetings. As the meetings progressed over July through to September, it became increasingly clear that the CoCT is expecting residents themselves to take “ownership” of the baboon-related issues – if residents want effective baboon-proof fences, it seems that residents will have to pay for installation and maintenance of those fences. Likewise with rangers, if residents want rangers, at this stage it seems as if they will have to pay for them. From discussions at the meetings, it may be that the only thing the CoCT will provide is baboon-proof bins (sometime in 2023/24) as well as advice as to how residents should baboon-proof homes and businesses.
As the CoCT engaged with its rate base, the real crux of the issues appeared to centre on who is actually responsible for the baboons, and who should pay for baboon-proof fences to keep the baboons in the Table Mountain National Park? Who will maintain the fences? There are many questions that need answers but only the CoCT and Cape Nature were present in the meetings; SANParks and TMNP are maintaining a very low profile.On the issue of their responsibilities, Cape Nature is clear they are responsible only for permits to relocate, move or kill baboons, but recently stated that those decisions will now be made jointly with the CoCT…
As there is no clarity at all in regards to future management of the baboon human interface, we will have to wait for the draft Strategic Management Plan, which may be available for public input towards the end of November, just in time for the year-end break. This means that any potential discussion and workshops would only start again in the new year and with the end of June as the proposed cut-off date to stop the ranger’s services, you can understand why we are so concerned.
While the authorities attempt to sort out their differences of opinion, I sincerely hope that they are ALL paying careful heed to the plight of the CT2 troop of Constantia. The troop were effectively abandoned by the CoCT when they removed rangers from the troop, effectively leaving them to wander the streets of Constantia on their own (the CoCT quoted very dubious reasons for the terrible decision-making).
The CT2 troop is providing an insightful illustration as to what will happen if the CoCT does proceed with plans to abandon the ranger project without strategic baboon-proof fences, waste management etc. in place. Without appropriate management and management structures in place baboons suffer injury and awful deaths and residents suffer damage to property; simply put there are no winners in that scenario only chaos.
Collectively, all resident groups and stakeholders are unanimous on the fact that the CoCT cannot simply terminate the ranger project at the end of June 2023, at the very least there must be a practical transition period of 3–5 years so that adequate baboon proofing (including strategic baboon proof electric fences) is in place and if residents have decided to form SpecialRating Areas to pay for future services those can be in place too.
An important part of future baboon management will be the inclusion of an ethics committee to help evaluate management decisions and we thank Dr Elisa Galgut for putting forward this long overdue addition to the management discussions.Baboon Matters has participated intensively in not only the CoCT zoom meetings, but also the preparatory meetings with our colleagues and stakeholders as well as in panel discussions hosted by Simons Town Civic Association. It is astonishing to note, however, that despite numerous requests to meet with the Mayor and Alderman Andrews to help resolve the contentious management of the baboon human interface, Mayor Hill-Lewis and Ald Andrews have, so far, ignored all requests to meet with BM. It is very clear, that unless the authorities resolve the long outstanding issues of accountability and legal responsibility for baboons, we (the residents and stakeholders) will be going around and around the same old problems that have confounded baboon management for the past 20 years for another 20 years – providing angry residents have not killed the closed population of baboons.
In 2021 Baboon Matters launched our Emergency Rescue Pack initiative to supply essential equipment to assist in circumstances where wildlife has been injured and in need of veterinary care. Innovative engineer Marco Pasanisi designed and produced our first trap cage, which we then gifted to the Wildlife Unit of the CGHSPCA. The trap cage has proved invaluable to the CGHSPCA and they have been able to assist many injured baboons by getting them appropriate veterinary help urgently needed.THANKS to your support, we have just ordered our next 5 trap cages and will be also purchasing equipment such as plunge syringes, control poles etc. so that injured wildlife can be quickly and safely contained until they can get veterinary care. The trap cages will be deployed to areas in the Western Cape after organisations and individuals have undergone training course on how to assess injuries and how to use the equipment we will provide.
Baboon Matters has continued to support the incredible work undertaken by the hardworking groups who rescue our many orphaned and injured baboons across SA. This year we have assisted Prime Crew with food and running costs as they worked exceptionally hard (and under huge pressure) to successfully release two troops into a wonderful natural area where they will be wild baboons for the rest of their days. Well done to Luzanne, Kimmy and the entire Prime Crew team, you have achieved your goals for these baboons and you must be super proud of this result!We have recently also helped out at Stormberg as we covered the transport costs and veterinary bills for two young baboons both of whom lost their mothers here in Cape Town (one baboon mom was killed by dogs and the other mom thought to have been electrocuted). Both youngsters are doing very well at Stormberg and we thank Lana, Dup and Karen for all their care. In 2020 we were able to direct essential funds to cover some of the food costs to CARE, as BM tries to assist the rehab centers where we can. I would like to pay a special thanks to Stephen Munroe of CARE who is such a help to me – providing essential insight and advice when baboons have been injured.
Education and Outreach
Baboon Matters has always put a great deal of time and effort into education and outreach, our social media has been extremely successful with over 66000 followers on Facebook and in some months, our content has been exposed and reached nearly a million people–quite astonishing! We have a rapidly growing support base on Instagram, where we have more than doubled our followers in the past few months and now have 3600 people following BM.In the coming months, we plan to launch a series of podcasts and we believe these will be entertaining as well as educational, so I hope you sign up for the podcasts when we go on air! Baboon Matters has often collaborated with well-known artist Chip Snaddon and we were absolutely thrilled with Chip’s wonderful designs for posters we had made for the busy holiday season in Simons Town over December and January 2021. The posters will be used again and we hope to grow the campaign in other areas.
This year I was delighted when a concerned Tokai resident had beautiful boards and flyers designed and printed. We thank our anonymous friend for all her hard work, this collaborative effort meant that BM simply covered some of the printing costs in order to get the effective signage and flyers to key points.
In our efforts, to encourage the Greyton Baboon Monitor project we helped the team get their first newsletter together and I thank the Cape Creative Collective for their help and creative inputs with both the newsletter and “postcard”.The Greyton team are such hardworking men and they were delighted to see their first newsletter printed. Thanks so much to Lance of Greytprint for his help with the artwork and the great print.
I am always so very sorry our baboons are tragically killed, this year was especially hard to lose such wonderful characters such Crookie-Mary (of Da Gama) troop who was torn apart by dogs, the loss of Julius (of Plateau Road troop) who was killed by a professional hunter on orders of the landowner and the awful, unresolved, circumstances of Brutus (of Bettys Bay troop) who was shot at close range. In addition to being killed by dogs or run over by cars, too many baboons are killed by intolerant residents and we ask all readers to please report shootings to the relevant authorities (all details on the flyer above.)The entire community of baboon colleagues was deeply saddened by the death of staunch baboon warrior Lorna Thomas (of Welcome Glen) and of primate academics Judith Masters and Fabien Genin. May they Rest in Peace.
Baboon Matters is entirely dependent upon the financial support of the public and I thank you all for signing up for MySchool Card (please remember to swipe your card when you shop!) and to all of you who make contributions to the very hard work put into support other groups and always working towards the goals of better management of the baboon/human interface–and saving our baboons.Thank you for your ongoing support.
Bank Details: Baboon Matters TrustStandard Bank Blue Route Account: 2700 400 80
Links to articles:
Arabella Fires – https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3064642793809379Baboon Management
https://www.iol.co.za/capeargus/news/minister-barbara-creecy-intervenes-on-the-cape-peninsula-baboon-management-problem-1b3f7b71-5315-4e9b-96cd-16089425bedfEmergency Rescue Packs https://www.facebook.com/baboonmatterstrust/videos/219040316921376Rehabilitation Centers