On any given day you would be forgiven for thinking all the grocery stores and restaurants in Simon’s Town were closed.
That is to say, if all the closed shop fronts were any indication. Here, food outlets are at risk of being ransacked by baboons lest anyone inadvertently left a door open.
Recently, the baboon issue was catapulted into the spotlight when a Seaforth woman allegedly shot three baboons, killing one of them.
Over the years though, this age-old problem has seen many attempts to find a solution to baboons invading residential areas.
In September IOL News reported that a proposal released by Cape Peninsula Baboon Management Joint Task Team (CPBMJTT) for baboon-proof fencing for the Cape Peninsula was open for public comments.
“The report proposes locations on the Cape Peninsula where baboon-proof fencing could be considered to keep baboons in their natural habitat and out of the urban environment as far as possible,” the article said.
Recently, a creative Simon’s Town resident, Luana Pasanisi made some headway when she adapted circular economy principles in conjunction with conventional methods to help address the problem of baboons raiding garbage bins and kitchens in Simon’s Town.
Pasanisi, who runs a NGO, “Green Group Simon’s Town”, said waste management was at the root of the problem.
Together with the community, they have implemented a wet waste management system. The group also warns traffic on Main Road, using a flag during baboon activity.
Key to the multi-faceted action plan is that residents ensure their bins are secured and not accessible to baboons. Furthermore, residents and businesses in the area are encouraged to separate wet food from other waste.
The recyclable waste can be dropped off at Simon’s Town Recycling Plant or Harbour Bay Mall which has also done their bit by installing a recycling drop-off point in its parking area for easy access and convenience for residents.
The wet waste from the suburb is collected on a daily basis by Darron Nicholsan who runs an NGO, The Glo House. He distributes the waste food to pig farmers, himself included. Many of these farmers would otherwise not have the financial means to buy fodder for their livestock.
The City of Cape Town’s Waste Services Department has also come to the party by installing smart bins which cannot be accessed by adult baboons. This is a wooden and metal housing which can accommodate two wheelie bins.
In addition, Main Road received a much-needed upgrade when two pedestrian crossings and “baboon” signage were installed, effectively slowing down traffic, the aim being to reduce accidents caused by motorists hitting baboons crossing the road.
Another important element, key to the success of baboon management, is the daily deployment of baboon rangers for which CPBMJTT is credited. They manage the baboon troops and prevent them from entering the residential area and CBD.
The CPBMJTT had not yet responded to questions at the time the story went live.
Local resident of 25 years, Karen Hurwitz, who lives on a property which has a river flowing through it said: “I have had the baboons visiting my property (to drink water) for many years. I love watching how they cope, how they interact with one another; how the mothers are obsessed with their babies.
“They are such a nurturing, caring community of animals and are such sentient beings. If they break my lemon tree; so what? God gave them the lemons. That’s why the lemon trees are here.”
Business owner, Doreen Alcock said jokingly: “Every morning when I come in, I’m being watched by baboons; pairs of eyes following my every move and this is at five o' clock in the morning. So, we sort of learning to live together, I guess.”
Alcock is the owner of “The Sweetest Thing Patisserie” on Main Road, Simon’s Town. “We used to have problems with them (baboons) because we used to have our bins out in the alleyway and they were not really properly secured. It was a daily thing. Every day we would come in and find (that) the baboons have wrecked the bins and there is mess everywhere. We have had to clean up,” she said.
Alcock said with the assistance of Pasanisi, they proceeded to baboon-proof the bins, but somehow they still managed to gain access to the food inside.
“Luana again suggested maybe separating the wet waste from the recyclables, so we did that and that was much much better because there was no food in the bins. They still opened the bins but found that there was nothing inside. A pig farmer comes in every day or every second day and picks up the wet waste. All we have to deal with now is the recycling. Somebody comes to pick up the recycling twice a week,” she said.
Alfred Maoneke, has a leather manufacturing business on the ground floor on Main Road and a workshop on the floor above where he also sleeps.
Maoneke said: “I think it was okay once a week, but I think it was getting too much (when they came) everyday. I sleep upstairs. They sleep on top of my building, they make a noise, they break windows. When it comes to me, I think it is too much now.”
“At the end of the day, the baboons are smart creatures that don’t want to pay rent,” he said jokingly.
Jenni Trethowan, founder of Baboon Matters said, “I believe that, as has been discussed, debated and researched for the past 20 years now, effective waste management is a key management tool for mitigating baboons foraging in urban areas. What must surely be clear is that effective waste management is an essential and urgently needed tool to help our planet and eco-systems cope.
”It is, therefore, strange that the CoCT has not put effort into implementing effective strategies across areas where baboons are neighbouring human occupied spaces. We have been waiting for years for effective baboon proof bins and systems; Luana has demonstrated how effective waste management does have success.
“Why is it taking so long to roll out and enforce in all areas? It will be important that strategies are fully implemented and enforced if we are to see change and perhaps a court order in this regard is the only way to get the action needed.”