Da Gama troop’s Horace put down

Former alpha male Horace or SK3 was euthanised on July 23.

The former alpha male of the Da Gama troop, Horace or SK3, has been killed after his raiding “increased significantly” after having been injured, losing his alpha position to another baboon and being attacked by dogs.

Johan van der Merwe, the City’s Mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, said that the Baboon Technical Team received approval from the Wild Animal Advisory Committee to euthanise SK3, known to locals as Horace, in mid-July and he was put down on July 23.

He said that Horace/SK3 joined the Da Gama small troop in March 2013, from the Slangkop Troop. In mid-July 2013 he took over as alpha male when the big troop and the small troop merged, and his raiding behavior reduced dramati- cally.

“Unfortunately on March 18 2015, SK3 sustained severe injuries to his head and abdomen. For two weeks he was almost unable to eat and could not stay with the troop. Many attempts were made to capture or dart him and all were unsuccessful. On April 1 2015 a new dispersing male, TK43, was brought in from Tokai. TK43 took over as alpha male of the Da Gama Troop as SK3 was in no condition to challenge this male.

“SK3 finally started to recover, but then on May 17 2015 he was attacked by two dogs in 1st Avenue, Da Gama Park. The dogs managed to rip off his collar and inflicted some wounds to his back leg and front shoulder. Again, the attempts made to dart or capture him were unsuccessful. By this time, SK3 had settled into the role of a beta male in the Da Gama Troop.

“Due to his lower status in the troop, and his wounds, his raiding started to increase again. Initially it was hoped that the raiding would reduce once his wounds had healed. However, this was not the case. In 2016 his raiding has increased significantly. A female, DGF4, also joined him on raids into town.”

Mr Van der Merwe said baboon rangers had tried to put various mitigation measures in place to limit Horace’s activities in the built-up areas – with varied efficiency. It included working with the SA Navy on waste management at the navy flats and deploying rangers specifically tasked with keeping SK3 in the troop.

“During April 2016, SK3 embarked on a total of 35 raids which included six occupied house raids, one unoccupied house raid, and an incident when he was displaying threatening behavior. In May 2016, SK3 undertook 29 raids. This included three occupied house raids, two unoccupied house raids, two incidents of display- ing threatening behaviour, and five incidents of breaking and entering.

“Since May 2015, SK3 has been involved in a total of 224 incidents of raiding and/or being in town. Time in town for individuals for the Da Gama troop has increased significantly over the last few months, and a large proportion of this can be ascribed to DGF4 and SK3 spending time in town.”

Then on June 24, the first time since the Redhill fire, Horace/SK3 moved to the Misty Cliffs Troop, a troop of females which were also looking after an orphaned infant whose mother was killed by gunshot. After his arrival there, he killed the orphaned infant and two others.

“Infanticide is a natural phenomenon in nature and was not a factor listed in the Baboon Technical Team submission to the Wild Animal Advisory Committee,” said Mr Van der Merwe.

He said decisions by the advisory committee were made against the backdrop of a history of severe raiding, aggressive behavior and dispersing activities. Mitigating factors instituted by baboon rangers over several months are also reviewed.

“Finally, the impact of splin- tering troops on the team of rangers, who are needed by residents to manage the main troop effectively, is taken into account,” he said.

Long-time Scarborough resident and baboon watcher Ushka Mrkusic said that the killing of the juvenile baboons in Scarborough was not natural but a result of tampering with the social hierarchy by sending a male from Tokai to Da Gama, wreaking havoc.

“Try as they might, Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS) had not been successful in keeping the all-gals Misty Cliffs troop and their babies out of Scarborough in the year 2016.

“Then along came Horace, a ‘dispersing male’ with 200-plus bad conduct counts against him. From the moment Horace announced his arrival in Scarborough with a stream of barking, I was plagued for the safety of the infants. It took weeks before HWS caught up with Horace, tragically not before our worst fear came to pass – in-fantacide.

“The Misty splinter troop is almost gone, just a handful of widows and ex-mothers who lost their babies with no recourse to alpha protection. The order of a natural social system was ripped from them with the systematic killings of the troop’s alphas.

“Baboons and monkeys have been demonised with media lies, as dangerous, thieves, or vermin.

“The death of the infants is a crushing defeat. Depressing. A small reflection – a fractal – of corruption, fear and violence.

“If we can’t win the small battles, how will we ever win the big ones?” she asked.