Race against time to save Scarborough baboons

Conservationists are trying to move the Scarborough breakaway troop back into Cape Point nature reserve before the last four are killed. Picture: Ian Landsberg / African News Agency (ANA)

Conservationists are trying to move the Scarborough breakaway troop back into Cape Point nature reserve before the last four are killed. Picture: Ian Landsberg / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 9, 2019


Cape Town - Conservationists in Scarborough are in a race against time to save the last four baboons left in a troop that was once 18-strong.

The four females - including baby Sky - have been earmarked for euthanasia, according to a local activist group, because they live on the urban edge and have ventured into properties to raid food.

Baboons can legally be killed if they are involved in activities such as raids, or entering a house or car to steal food, according to the lethal protocol adopted by the Baboon Conservation Authority (which is made up of South African National Parks, CapeNature and the City of Cape Town).

The City appointed a company called Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS) to control baboon behaviour, including shooting baboons with paintball guns and euthanising them.

Janis Sinclair, founder of the Save Scarborough Baboons group, said the last four members of the Scarborough troop could soon meet this sad fate unless a solution is found by the end of September.

Sinclair managed to motivate for a moratorium for the four while authorities attempt to get the baboons to willingly go back to Table Mountain National Park where they came from.

But this moratorium does not protect any of the other troops that live in semi-urban areas around Cape Town’s deep south.

Just two days ago, an adult male known as Johnny Bravo was killed. He was the fifth baboon to be euthanised in the past two months.

The Weekend Argus has seen the letter sent out by HWS, notifying stakeholders of the euthanasia: “This is a courtesy notification to let you know that an adult male baboon, SWB12, from the Smitswinkel Troop, was euthanised on Thursday, 4 July, in terms of the baboon management raiding guidelines.”

The City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, confirmed that they use paintball guns on the baboons.

“The City of Cape Town employs baboon rangers who, under permit, protect residents from raiding baboons from the urban area their survival depends on them being in the wild.”

Nieuwoudt said the measures have had a positive impact since they began in 2012, with baboon population growing by 2% each year.

“In the same period, the baboon deaths caused by humans in urban areas decreased from 53% to 14%,” Nieuwoudt said. “These figures indicate that the management strategy to keep baboons in the wild is effective.”

The protocol document specifies that a baboon must be individually identifiable, and provides a guide for weighing the baboon’s “offences” against mitigating factors before it is sentenced to die.

“This protocol is for management of individual baboons that have been shown to pose a risk to public health and safety despite attempts to prevent this,” the document states.

Sinclair said the protocol hadresulted in nearly all the adult males being killed.

“They’re a death squad, it’s not conservation. If a baboon enters your house twice, they’re known as a problem baboon and marked for euthanasia,” she said. “It is not safe for baboons living in urban areas.

Sinclair said the Scarborough troop’s numbers had been decimated.

“Sky, the last remaining baby, was born in Scarborough. Two weeks ago, her sister drowned in a pool in Misty Cliffs. Before that, her brother was knocked over by a car..”

Sinclair plans to appeal to the minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Creecy, to step in and co-ordinate a way forward between the many official and activist role-player groups.

Sinclair got involved in baboon activism because she unwittingly contributed to marking the Scarborough Four for euthanasia.

“They come to my house every day,” she said. “I kept phoning the hotline, thinking that HWS would come help us find a solution. What they were doing was logging the calls against those four.”

Instead of sending them to their deaths, Sinclair is advocating for the baboons to be moved back into the nature reserve and reunited with their original troop.

“I think they should go back to Cape Point National Park where they came from,” she said.

Weekend Argus

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