Cape Town - 090929 - Tokai Forest - Baboon Monitors create a line between the Baboons in the forest and the road. Some baboons do manage to escape and run into the near by houses but are soon caught. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Cape Town - The city’s current baboon management operation is a fantastic success and unprecedented on a global scale – but an effective 27 percent budget cut from next year probably means renewed human-baboon conflict in the South Peninsula.

That’s the belief of the Baboon Liaison Group that is angry because, it says, the authorities have ignored suggestions for reducing costs while retaining the efficiencies of the current operation that keeps 10 managed baboon troops out of urban areas close to 100 percent of the time.

“We all want a cut in the costs and there’ve been discussions for a long time about possible approaches to reducing the costs,” says Dr Graham Noble, spokesman for the group that comprises representatives of civic groups in baboon-prone areas ranging from Constantia to Plateau Road near Cape Point. “But none of the authorities has done a single thing about it – they’ve not even read the documentation. (The current operation) is fantastic and it’s exceeded all expectation, but it can’t be sustained on a 27 percent budget cut.”

The three-year contract of current service provider comes to an end on June 30, and a new tender call has been put out by the city with a closing date of May 8.

The city is one of three authorities with statutory responsibility for managing baboons on the Peninsula, with SA National Parks (through the Table Mountain National Park) and CapeNature. Although the three co-operate closely as a joint management authority as the Baboon Technical Team, the city alone bears the management contract cost of around R10 million a year.

Noble says the 2013/14 budget figure of R10.5m will be reduced to R8.4m for 2014/15, and that this works out to 27 percent, assuming a usual annual inflation increase of around 6 percent.

The proposed R2m budget cut was presented to the city’s economic, environmental and spatial planning portfolio committee earlier this month. The committee was unhappy and, according to the draft minutes, recommended to the city’s budget steering committee and the mayoral committee that the R2m cut be restored, “or else, lower service levels or (a) smaller area will be covered”.

However, there have been complaints for several years that baboon management is taking the lion’s share of the city’s conservation operating budget, leaving “very limited” funds for other projects – especially those of a strategic nature. It’s a major concern because of the city’s huge responsibilities for conserving its globally unique indigenous vegetation.

Julia Wood, manager of the city’s biodiversity management branch, said in response to Cape Argus questions that management of the Peninsula’s baboons had made “enormous strides”.

“In August 2012, the incoming service provider, Human Wildlife Solutions, was contracted to keep the 10 managed baboon troops out of the urban areas for 80 percent of the time. Managed baboon troops are currently being kept out of urban areas on average 99.6 percent of the time and individual baboons are kept out of urban areas 96.5 percent of the time.”

Metropolitan authorities across South Africa were under relentless pressure to balance budgets in the provision of services to all residents, she added.

“It’s currently thought that spending R10 million a year to manage just under 400 baboons in 10 troops is not sustainable by the city. Furthermore, baboon management has been successfully achieved and stabilised over the last 20 months.

“Against this background, an adjusted budget allocation was deemed appropriate from a planning perspective. The city has many competing demands for the 2014/2015 budget and as with all adjusted budget allocations for the new financial year, this situation will be monitored.”


Forms of assistance

The authorities’ joint Baboon Technical Team is informed by the work of baboon researchers – particularly at UCT – and is assisted in its mandate by various members and stakeholder groups, says the city.

Assistance includes:

* Enforcement, legal, advocacy and veterinary services.

* Electric fencing, advocacy and waste management by the SA Navy.

* Welfare and advisory services by the SPCA.

* Conservation assistance, signage and environmental education services by Table Mountain National Park staff.

* Assistance from city departments responsible for waste management, sanitation, water, traffic services, development and planning, security, parks and recreation, and tourism.

* Assistance from the SAPS, especially when baboons wander into high-density suburbs.

* Assistance from numerous stakeholders, ranging from civic groups to residents associations and wine estates.

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Cape Argus