File photo: Jenni Trethowan of Baboon Matters visits baboons near Redhill. The students also found that nearly half the calories the baboons consumed came from exotics like pines and oaks. Picture: Rogan Ward

Cape Town - Strong differences of opinion over the management of the Peninsula’s baboon troops – particularly the killing of raiding male baboons – should be discussed and resolved in a formal conciliation process, says the conservation group Baboon Matters Trust.

The trust wants Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa to appoint a facilitator to run a conciliation process under the National Environmental Management Act. If she declines to do so, the trust will go to the high court.

But it needs one of the key parties, SA National Parks, the parent body of the Table Mountain National Park where most of the baboons occur, to first agree to extending the period in which it can go to court, before starting any conciliation.

Table Mountain National Park staff are among those who decide when a baboon is to be put down.

The trust wants an extension because of court rules that a review application must be brought within six months of any administrative action.

One of the two baboons whose killing led to the bid for conciliation was put down in the last week of August, and this means that the trust must file court papers before the end of February, unless SANParks agrees to an extension.

On Friday, the trust sent an urgent letter to SANParks’ chief executive officer David Mabunda, saying that if he did not agree to the extension, the trust would have to go straight to court.

SANParks’ head of communications Wanda Mkutshulwa confirmed that Mabunda had received the letter.

The trust launched its action after two male baboons, named Peter and Carpenter by the conservationists, were put down last year on the instruction of the Baboon Technical Team, a co-operative group of the City of Cape Town, CapeNature and SANParks which are in charge of baboon management on the Peninsula.

Before this the trust’s lawyer, Mark Nixon, had written to the team asking for a moratorium on the killing of any baboons until the trust had been given all relevant data and documents to study and comment on, said the trust’s founder Jenni Trethowan.

“The letter met with no success, and Peter and Carpenter were killed shortly thereafter,” she said.

The trust believed that SANParks had killed the baboons because of their raiding, but this had taken place on land not within the Table Mountain National Park and so the staff were not acting within their legal mandate. The trust believed the actions of the park staff were reviewable in court. - Cape Argus