With the recent ongoing commentary in the local press, on Facebook and a variety of WhatsApp groups, it is clear that the Kleinmond-Betty’s Bay baboons are a contentious issue amongst residents. Also evident is the emergence of different camps – the ‘baboon lovers’, the ‘baboon haters’, the ‘municipality bashers’ and very likely a growing ‘I’m so sick of the whole debate’ camp.
I appeal to everyone who has an interest in the baboons not to depend on other people’s opinions, but to dig for the truth by looking at all the factual information and data, and to fully understand all aspects of the issue so that an informed decision can be taken. This is important because the baboons’ lives and wellbeing are at stake, and if we make the wrong decision, we could be causing more harm.
From the information that has been shared on various platforms, it seems that over the last 12 – 18 months two baboons have been run over, two were poached and turned into bush meat, one female was shot dead (and her baby lost), and one old female was badly bitten by dogs. So out of seven recorded deaths, six were directly at the hands of man. This does not even include the injured baboons – those who were shot at, stoned, and had dogs set on them – the list is long. People do not need to be protected from the baboons – baboons need to be protected from people!
Clearly, if we look around the world, mankind is the most destructive, unrelenting and pervasive threat to nature and wildlife. This is undisputed. Any natural havens that have been carved out for nature preservation are always under threat from external anthropogenic pressures.
The only question we should consider here is: What is best for the baboons? It is not about what you want, or what I want, but what is in their best interest. How can we keep this troop of baboons safe from humans?
Baboons are drawn to houses, refuse sites, bins etc. due to the fact that they provide a high-energy food source, which they don’t have to forage for in their natural habitat. This readily available food is bad for them compared to their natural diet, and results in bad teeth, obesity, sugar addictions… simply put, our food is bad for their health. To get to houses, they have to cross busy roads, and run the gauntlet of some humans who are cruel and uncaring.
Many have rightly argued that the bins and waste area must be sorted out. However, the Municipality has been unable to successfully deal with this, and the waste area at the library is still open. Very little action has been taken, despite promises and discussions. It seems it will be at least another six months or more before lockable bins can be enforced.
Clarence Drive is a provincial road, not municipal. Any actions on Clarence Drive (speed limits, calming measures etc.) are likely to involve processes that could take years. What will happen to the baboons in the meantime? While fully aware that we live in a biosphere, the reality is that in the urban areas, it is clearly too dangerous for the baboons. Something has to change if we really do care about the baboons. If we continue to cling to the romanticised notion of living with the baboons in our village, it will only end in more baboon deaths, because some humans will kill them, despite others’ best efforts and desire to prevent this from happening.
For me a safe baboon is a baboon out of town, beyond Clarence Drive and the unpredictable and dangerous people in every community – not just ours. We should not try to make them our ‘friends’ and in doing so love them to death. Any decisions we make, or support we offer, please, let it be based on what is best for the baboons.