The team from Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS) who were appointed in November 2019 by Overstrand Municipality to manage the Voëlklip and Pringle Bay baboon troops had their hands full over the holiday season with the abundance of human-derived food drawing baboons into the suburbs.
According to a baboon management report by the municipality, the team had to constantly deal with rogue baboons that have been moving in and out of the urban environment for years without management.
“These rogue baboons have been pulling the troop in various directions and have made the physical implementation of the ‘virtual fence’ impossible. If the fence is implemented while the troop is split into various smaller groups, it will be impossible to maintain it and the programme will not succeed,” states the report.
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. If this landscape cannot be maintained, the baboons will not be alarmed by the process and will ignore it.
The report states that while the virtual fence has not yet been implemented, rangers armed with paintball guns have been able to keep the troop together for longer periods than has been the case in the past five years.
“Over the holiday season members of the public have complained that the baboons are to be found on the urban edge and that the programme is not working, but this is not so. The rangers have been herding the baboons out of the urban area and back into the mountains. But the Voëlklip troop, consisting of 28 baboons, often splits into two or three different groups and run in various directions. With not enough rangers in place, it is impossible to keep them all from entering the suburbs,” states the report.
In situations like these where rogue baboons split up the troop and lead smaller groups on raids into the suburbs, it is advised that these animals need to be removed from a troop. These so-called damage-causing baboons are teaching the younger animals in the troop to raid and to become fearless of people. This is detrimental to the public, the individual baboon and the troop.
“HWS, together with their partners from the City of Cape Town, CapeNature and UCT developed guidelines for categorising and managing damage-causing baboons and in terms of these guidelines, in the last three months the municipality has made recommendations to euthanise three damage-causing baboons. These baboons have subsequently been euthanised with advice from a veterinarian and in accordance with the Animal Protection Act,” according to the report.
The report further states that the municipality is in the process of developing a Baboon Liaison Group (BLG) which is a formally-constituted organisation comprised of nominated members of the public who live in suburbs of the Overstrand that are directly impacted by baboons.
During December, the Voëlklip troop entered the urban area on 12 occasions, compared to three in November 2019. In that time there were a total of 123 calls to the baboon hotline, 107 of which were raid-related calls received from managed areas, compared to 28 calls received in November. Most calls were from Voëlklip. The Vogelgat troop was reported in the Voëlklip suburb on nine occasions during December, while The Hamilton Russell troop was reported on the mountainside just above Hermanus Heights on four occasions. These two troops are not managed by HWS.
“The Three Dams and picnic area in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve were particularly difficult to manage with numerous picnickers bringing food into the area or chasing the baboons away from the dams and back into town,” according to the report.
The report goes on to say that over the past three years the Environmental Department had to bury six baboons killed or injured because of human-induced actions:
- Two adult males that were the alpha males of the troop were shot in the gut and it took a week for them both to die, while their stomachs were rotting from the inside caused by the damage of the bullet. They died a painful death.
- A juvenile female that was poisoned and picked up in a person’s yard. She also died a long and painful death.
- A juvenile male that was run over by a car and not killed on impact had to be taken to a veterinarian to be euthanised.
- A baby female that was shot several times with a pellet gun had to undergo a sonar only to find that her entire body was full of pellets and her stomach was perforated. She had to be euthanised.
- A juvenile male that was shot while sitting on the wall of a house and killed instantly.
“It is good news that since the implementation of the Baboon Programme none of these actions have been repeated.”