Paintball guns, pepper spray, electric fences and “bear bangers” – these are some of the tools the city council’s new contractor will use to keep baboons out of urban areas on the Peninsula.
The new contractor, Human Wildlife Solutions, begins work on Wednesday on a two-year contract.
The city said some of these tools had already been used in pilot projects.
Julia Wood, the city council’s biodiversity manager, said on Tuesday there was wide agreement that baboons should not be in urban areas, as this put both humans and the primates at risk.
The baboon monitors – who would now be called field rangers – would continue to use some of the established techniques to keep the baboons in the wild areas, such as “holding the line”. This was a strategy whereby the monitors set a boundary line around urban areas over which the baboons must not cross.
This line was agreed on by the authorities, researchers and residents. However, a single line was hard to defend, so a buffer zone around urban areas would be established instead.
Wood said paintballs, bear bangers and pepper spray would be used, according to a strict operating procedure, in certain areas, to ensure the animals did not move from the buffer area into the towns.
“We have been using paintballs already for about six months in limited areas as a pilot. They are used with the permission of CapeNature.
“The pepper spray is not to spray at the baboons, but as a scent marker so they associate the spray with paintballs (and retreat),” Wood said.
Bear bangers, projectiles which emit a very loud noise, are used to scare off wild animals. Wood said these had been used in the Simon’s Town area “with lots of success”.
Because of noise pollution, bear bangers would not be used in the urban areas, but to help keep the baboons on the wild side of the buffer zones around towns.
Wood said baboon researchers had advised that more effort should be put in to using electric fences in some spots to keep the primates out of towns.
“This is something we will consider in small, selected hot spots where it has proved effective,” she said.
“But it needs an environmental impact assessment and a public participation process, so there is still a long way to go. The question is, who pays?”
Residents in Tokai had got permission to erect an electric fence on Table Mountain National Parks land.
Wood said the residents had paid for it themselves.
CapeNature spokeswoman Liesl Brink said on Tuesday CapeNature had given permission to the city last year for their former service provider to use paintball markers in Scarborough and Tokai only.