BY TRED MAGILL
In an embarrassing about-face for Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt, the City of Cape Town has capitulated to the demands of animal activist Ryno Engelbrecht and agreed, in an out of court settlement, to return the much-loved chacma baboon Kataza (SK11), to this home range on Slangkop, in Kommetjie.
Kataza was relocated from Slangkop to Tokai by the City, in August after the City's service provider, Human and Wildlife Solutions (HWS) were unable to keep him out of Kommetjie and submitted two applications to kill ('euthanise') him, both of which were rejected.
His relocation in August, sparked public outrage and a petition of over 30 000 signatories, calling on the City Mayoral Committee member for Environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, to return the baboon to Slangkop.
On 2 October, Engelbrecht brought an application to review the controversial decision by the City's Baboon Technical Team (BTT), to relocate Kataza to Tokai, citing animal cruelty and claiming the City has no legal authority to manage wild baboons. Cape Nature, SAN Parks and the SPCA - all members of the BTT - subsequently denied any knowledge of the decision.
Engelbrecht demanded the removal of the gps collar and ear-tags, which had been fitted to track and identify the baboon; and his return to his home range on Slangkop. SAN Parks and Cape Nature were cited as second and third respondents respectively and the City's service provider Human and Wildlife Solutions (HWS), who's baboon rangers herd the baboons on a daily basis, was also cited.
Days after filing the application, the gps collar and ear-tags were removed, but there was no indication the City intended to return Kataza to Slangkop - the City consistently maintained that the chacma baboon was successfully integrating into the Tokai troop; but this was dismissed as 'propaganda' by a team of 'baboon angels' who daily monitor and track the baboon, to protect him from the urban hazards of Tokai.
The City initially opposed the application, but the legal battle took a dramatic and unexpected turn yesterday (Friday, 6 November) when the City's legal counsel requested a meeting with Engelbrecht's counsel and agreed to settle.
The settlement agreement confirms "the City intends relocating him to the Slangkop troop ... as soon as practically possible" and that "if he needs veterinary attention, it will be provided."
Primatologist, Bob Venter said at a public meeting on Wednesday that Kataza was 'severely stressed' and badly in need of veterinary attention. Venter said the baboon was also suffering an injury on his neck and abscess in his mouth.
Engelbrecht has agreed to withdraw the application without costs "once SK11 has been released within the
Slangkop troop home range". It is also agreed that Kataza's "previous raiding record will no longer be considered. This will give him the best chance."
SAN Parks did not oppose the application and Cape Nature filed a notice to abide with an 'explanatory affidavit' from Executive Director, Dr Ernst Baard; who claimed that the decision to relocate Kataza had been made by Julia Wood. "Neither Cape Nature nor the BTT was involved in the decision", he said.
A letter from the City's attorneys - Cluver Markotter - later confirmed "the decision was made jointly" by Julia Wood, Dalton Gibbs, Dorothy Breed and Owen Wittridge, employed in the City's Environmental Management department.
Engelbrecht said he was happy with the settlement agreement, but would be seeking legal counsel on the possibility of a further application to review the City's baboon management guidelines, which are considered by many to be inhumane.