Scant support for hunting of baboons

Animal rights advocacy groups are up in arms over the killing of baboons in Constantia.

A Kommetjie baboon activist says baboons are our “wildlife neighbours” and killing them is not an option.

This, after it emerged last week that CapeNature issued two Constantia wine farms hunting permits to kill up to two of the primates a day.

The wine farms are Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting, but the latter has since withdrawn the permit, after a public backlash.

Jenni Trethowan, of Baboon Matters, spoke out strongly against the hunting permits.

She also claims that in the second attack of its kind in 10 days, and across two areas, dogs and baboons have clashed and fought.

One incident, she said, happened in Ocean View, where dogs were set on one another intentionally and a baboon was attacked in the process.

The SPCA confirmed a charge had been laid in relation to dog fighting.

Ms Trethowan thanked Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS) rangers Ziggy Rhode and Cath Shutte for trying to save the baboon.

Ocean View is a perilous place right now – five men have died there in suspected gang shootings in less than a month – but the HWS team had gone in without police protection.

Ms Trethowan said that in the same week, a baboon was mauled to death by a dog when it went to get fruit from a tree in Tokai.

Kay Montgomery, of the Baboon Technical Team (BTT), confirmed that incident.

The BTT, SPCA and other baboon stakeholders were planning to meet on Wednesday July 11 to discuss the latest incidents.

The SPCA and CapeNature are part of the BTT that oversees baboon management in the Cape Peninsula.

The team meets monthly with contractor HWS, which, with its 63 rangers, handles the day-to-day management of 11 of the Cape Peninsula’s 17 baboon troops.

Ms Trethowan said: “We have been saying the same thing over and over for years now – humans need to be held accountable for their actions and for managing their property effectively.”

SPCA spokeswoman Belinda Abraham said the information they had about the Tokai incident suggested the dog had acted out of natural instinct.

“There is no evidence in this case to indicate that the dog was intentionally set upon the baboon or was incited to attack in any way.”

She reminded the public to secure rubbish and compost heaps and keep food out of sight.

CapeNature spokeswoman Loren George confirmed they had issued hunting licences to the wine farms last year. To date, seven baboons have been killed.

The initial story, by Karen Watkins, in our sister paper, The Constantiaberg Bulletin, revealed that the two wine farms had the hunting permits and one had hired a professional hunter.

The permits are valid for a year and expire in October 2018.

Ms George said the permits were given as a last resort. The landowners had had to prove the extent of damage done by baboons and that non-lethal steps to stop them had been exhausted.

“We are obliged to provide a legal framework for landowners to manage biodiversity and human/wildlife conflict on their land.”

Justin O’Riain, a professor in biological sciences at UCT, said the conflict between farmers and wildlife was a global one – coyotes in America, foxes in the UK and dingoes in Australia were all examples of wildlife in conflict with people.

“This conflict has been shifted away from the Cape Peninsula by urbanisation but is still prevalent throughout the small livestock farming areas such as those in the Karoo. On the Peninsula, baboons have for a long time – and continue to be – the main source of conflict between residents and crop farmers. The only medium-sized predator remaining on the Peninsula is the caracal and they pose little threat to baboons,” he said.

But there was even greater conflict between those arguing over how to manage wildlife in conflict with humans.

“Opinions vary between eradicating all the Peninsula baboons to not even scaring them away from residential areas.”

He said the City of Cape Town spent R12 million annually to reduce raiding by baboons within the urban edge – an “enormous investment” for a species that was not endangered.

Baboon numbers have grown by 8% a year over the past decade, according to statistics from Esme Beamish, manager of the Baboon Research Unit at UCT.

“What is important to know is apple, orange, potato and sheep farmers all apply to CapeNature for similar permits to hunt wildlife that are damaging their crops.”

He said the issue was much wider than just seven baboons and two farms.

“It is a national issue and if the public have the appetite then they need to consider the impact of all foods on all wildlife.

“We are all deeply complicit through our demand for cheap, good quality food all the time,” he said.