After more than 18 months of wrangling over who is responsible for the management of baboons in the Overstrand, the municipality last week received a mandate from the provincial government stating that it is the municipality’s obligation to manage these animals.

According to Ward 3 councillor, Kari Brice, the mandate was received after “relentless negotiations between mayor Dudley Coetzee and the provincial government. At last we succeeded in securing the approval from Anton Bredell, MEC of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

“The mandate must now be ratified by the Western Cape cabinet, but in terms of this agreement the Overstrand Municipality may implement measures to curb the contentious baboon problem. As you are well aware, it has been an extremely frustrating journey for all concerned,” Brice said.

According to her, an amount of R2 million has been budgeted by the municipality and this will be used for baboon control measures throughout the Overstrand. “Our Environmental Department is totally aware of the urgency regarding the implementation of this project, but it will take a few weeks for contracts and training to be consolidated. I am truly overjoyed by this announcement as I too, have worked tirelessly in searching and pleading for potential solutions and funding, only to be thwarted by policies.”

The management of baboons has become a contentious issue after continued incursions by baboons in suburbs across Hermanus have left residents at their wits’ end.

This follows the implementation of a virtual fence in 2017 aimed at keeping baboons out of Voëlklip. But due to a lack of funding the project ground to a halt after an initial three-week blitz by Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS), the manufacturers of the virtual fence, that kept the Fernkloof troop out of the affected suburbs for more than 90% of the time.

The virtual fence is made up of a sophisticated radio transmitter system that relays the movements of a troop to a cellular phone. If a troop moves too close to a residential area an alert is sent out and baboon monitors deploy sound boxes that emit sounds of predators roaring, animals dying and other frightening sound effects, including bear bangers that make a loud banging noise. The baboons are tracked via collars attached to the troop leaders. The sounds create a “landscape of fear” for the baboons and they are hesitant to move into an area with which they have come to associate the sounds.

After the virtual fence was set up, it was announced that according to legal counsel the municipality has no powers to undertake baboon control. “We must adhere to legislation and we can only act on and expend funds on functions which are assigned to it by the Constitution and legislation,” it said.

Mayor Coetzee said on Monday that the mandate now allows the municipality to spend money on the management of baboons.

“Although there are still several issues that need to be addressed, I have asked that all the necessary processes run concurrently to allow us to start implementing control measures as soon as possible. These measures not only include keeping baboons out of the suburbs but also ensuring that residents abide by the rules with regard to using baboon-proof bins and following the correct procedures with regards to refuse management,” he said.

According to Coetzee, re-installing the virtual fence above Voëlklip and Eastcliff as well as the appointment and training of monitors will start as soon as possible. “In the other areas of the Overstrand we will have to look at what solutions are available and start implementing them. If we find that virtual fences will also work in these areas, we will go through the necessary procedures to do so.”

The Hermanus Baboon Action Group (HBAG) said in response, it is concerned that there is no clear implementation timeline yet. “There is a risk that the community will be disappointed should there be further delays. Although the mayor and his team have formed a ‘Baboon Management Joint Task Team’, no public participation has been facilitated. Despite our appeals to be included in the task team, all our efforts to engage have been ignored.

“A suggestion for a workshop with the affected communities has been ignored several times,” said Pat Redford, HBAG spokesperson.

She also said the group is concerned that the budget allocation will not cover the costs of proper monitoring efforts.

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