Letter to the Editor: Success of baboon management depends on residents

Writer: Pat Redford

249

A representative of the newly-formed Hermanus Baboon Action Group (HBAG) met on 26 April with Francois Pretorius, the superintendent of Solid Waste, and Overstrand Municipality to discuss the problems associated with refuse-collection procedures in the areas of Voëlklip, Fernkloof, Kwaaiwater and some parts of Eastcliff.

https://www.facebook.com/hermanusbaboons/videos/365499514100728/

The Voëlklip baboon troop frequenting these suburbs has become aggressive and, unfortunately, is now well habituated to sourcing food from human refuse. This is partly due to the refuse collection procedures, but also the ambivalence of some residents and weekenders regarding domestic-refuse management.

This campaign is only Part 1 of several interventions planned by the HBAG. Part 1 is to inform and educate the community about proper refuse management, in cooperation with the municipal authorities.

Refuse-collection teams have been advised by the superintendent of Solid Waste, Mr Pretorius, only to remove refuse bags from bins not further than five houses ahead of the refuse truck, at any time. No stacking of bags by the teams for longer than a few minutes is acceptable. Previously, bags were stacked by teams at intervals along each block, or at the end of blocks, with the truck sometimes only returning to collect them much later.

This procedure provided a ‘buffet’ for the highly-adaptable troop to forage through. Sadly, once a troop has become aware of this easy access to human food and waste, it becomes habituated to foraging refuse, in preference to the daily foraging in its own, natural reservation environment.

Conservation experts advise that half a loaf of bread is equivalent to a full day’s foraging in nature. Another alarming indicator, according to CapeNature and Dr Phil Richardson of Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS), is that a troop will naturally self-regulate breeding, according to the abundance of food in the area.

The troop has now increased significantly in size to around 46 members, with at least seven females in eustress. It has almost doubled in the past five years. Experienced conservationists have advised re-habituation is not always successful. There are five new generations of baboons accustomed to the learnt behaviour of foraging in refuse, raiding homes for food, plundering gardens and destroying pots. These new generations were born subsequent to the withdrawal of the baboon monitors, more than five years ago.

Residents also need to take responsibility for their own refuse, as do weekenders, cleaning staff, rental agents and property management staff. Bins need to be fitted with baboon-proof clips, so the baboons cannot access the refuse. Various versions have been developed. Most successful are the clips installed by Christo, at Agrimark in Sandbaai, to newly-purchased bins. Baboon-proof clips to install on bins already in use are being developed and will soon be promoted. They will ensure that, while awaiting the collection teams on refuse day and while standing on your property, refuse bins cannot be accessed by baboons.

A public meeting is planned for the end of May to engage the community, HWS and CapeNature. This is Part 2 of the Hermanus Baboon Action Group campaign. The objective is to re-connect the virtual fence, collar and tag baboons and actively monitor the troop, encouraging it back to the reserve where it belongs. Part 2 will require funding and proper coordination with the relevant role players.

We all have to try harder and the community needs to be fully committed to workable, tried-and-tested solutions. HWS currently runs at close to a 99% success rate in keeping baboon troops out of suburbia in the Cape Peninsula. Please visit the Hermanus Baboons Facebook page for updates at fb.me/hermanusbaboons; or send reports and photos of raids to m.me/hermanusbaboons. A profile and record of all incidents involving baboons is necessary for long-term planning.  A website will be active, shortly.

If a resident is aware of specific neighbours (or their guests/tenants/weekenders) dumping their bags of refuse on the pavement, out of a baboon-proof bin, outside of the actual collection times, and there is proof by way of photos, dates and times, please also forward this info to fpretorius@overstrand.gov.za or call 028 313 8092.

 

 

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