A senior member of the De Gama troup which lives in the mountians near Glencairn villiage display his impressive teeth. Picture Rogan Ward. Story Melanie Gosling. 01 04 2005

Staff Writer

The new contractor for the controversy-ridden task of baboon management on the Cape Peninsula is due to take over tomorrow.

The Hout Bay-based company, Human Wildlife Solutions, headed by Dr Philip Richardson, a specialist in behavioural ecology, was notified at the end of June that it had been awarded the R10 million, two-year contract.

Julia Wood, the City of Cape Town’s biodiversity manager, confirmed that one of the methods the company would use was to place collars on dominant baboons to track them.

Earlier, the manner in which the baboons had been managed in the Peninsula came under heavy fire from a Kenya-based American expert on primates. Professor Shirley Strum, a biological anthropologist specialising in primate studies, said Cape Peninsula baboons had become uncontrollable because of the “extreme position” of activists who had thwarted scientific solutions to the conflict between the apes and humans.

“The baboons should have been aversively deterred from approaching and feeding on human food from the start and consistently since the first signs,” Strum wrote in an open letter in the Cape Times.

“How could anyone let a troop sleep on the roof of an apartment building? It is a joke to have monitors walking behind clapping hands at this point. I’m not even certain major deterrent efforts will be effective for many troops, but it is the only option now, short of eliminating most or all of the baboons.”

She said activists who oppose killing baboons had thwarted the only methods that might have prevented baboons raiding homes and restaurants for food.

Strum, professor of anthropology at the University of California, San Diego, said that after visiting troops around Cape Point and urban areas, she had found troops had taken baboon “ingenuity and adaptability to their logical extreme”.

Reacting to Strum’s comments, Jenni Trethowan, an activist from Baboon Matters, said: “It is deeply sad that Shirley witnessed the monitor programme at its lowest point, when the men themselves were demotivated and under-utilised, having been directed to work to unsuccessful strategies of ‘holding the line’ for the past three years.”

Human Wildlife Solutions has said it will provide training to baboon monitors and make use of paintballs, bear bangers and pepper spray to deter baboons from entering urban areas.

Wood previously told the Cape Times that while activists have not supported the use of paintballs and bear bangers, these tools had proved effective to some degree.

Wood had previously acknowledged that baboons on the Peninsula have become dangerous, and said conservation authorities believe another method to contain them would be the use of electric fences.