Kataza heads back to his troop

Kataza during his time in Tokai.

The return of Kataza, a male chacma baboon, to its original troop heralds the start of positive change for baboon management in the province, says animal activist Ryno Engelbrecht.

This after the City of Cape Town abandoned its plan to oppose Mr Engelbrecht’s court action against its controversial decision to relocate the baboon from its Kommetjie troop to one in Tokai.

The City relocated the raiding primate in August after two unsuccessful attempts to have it euthanised.

Mr Engelbrecht’s lawyers filed papers in the Western Cape High Court on Friday October 2, citing the City of Cape Town, SANParks, the Western Cape Conservation Board, Table Mountain National Park, the South African Navy and Human Wildlife Solutions as respondents.

The motion sought to have the baboon returned to the Kommetjie troop and its ear tags and GPS tracking collar removed.

Marian Nieuwoudt, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said in a statement last month that the City would oppose the application.

In every article on the City’s baboon management Facebook page and in every newspaper interview, the City cited specialists in support of moving an adult male baboon to a different area to improve its chances of mating with unrelated females, and to curb its raiding behaviour.

A war of words was waged between the City, defending its decision, and more than 30 000 residents and activists who cried foul and demanded the baboon be returned to its Kommetjie troop.

However, the City did a complete about-turn on Friday November 6 when it caved into Mr Engelbrecht’s demands.

Kataza would be relocated as soon as possible and records of the baboon’s raiding would be wiped clean, the City announced.

Before this capitulation, Kataza’s GPS collar and ear tags were removed. Primatologist Bob Venter said they were unnecessary and were probably aggravating him, especially in the strong Cape Town winds.

Mr Englebrecht said the real fight to overhaul the City’s baboon-management policy had only just started.

He wanted to see a more animal-rights oriented approach.

The City said in a statement that after intense monitoring for 10 weeks, it had been decided to move Kataza back home.

CapeNature and an independent animal welfare organisation would be asked to monitor Kataza’s capture and release.

In the interest of the baboon troop and public safety, no members of the public would be allowed near the capture site.

The City said the SPCA had proposed translocating Kataza to a sanctuary in Limpopo, but such decisions rested with CapeNature, which would have to issue a permit to authorise such a move.

The City said it believed Kataza should have a chance to spend time within the Slangkop troop.

Asked how much the Kataza exercise had so far cost ratepayers, City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo, failed to give an actual figure, but said “minor additional costs” in terms of staff time had been incurred during Kataza’s relocation. “As for the legal costs, the City and Mr Engelbrecht agreed that each party will pay their own legal expenses. Safe to say that the City’s legal costs will be minimal given that Mr Engelbrecht agreed that the application will be withdrawn once Kataza has been released within the Slangkop troop home range,” Mr Tyhalibongo said.