Chacma baboons subjected to “Selfie” portraits

Picture the scene: the Smitswinkel baboon troop (23 individuals) going about their daily routine.  There they are minding their own business, foraging for food along the scenic route to Cape Point when along come some eager tourists looking for photo opportunities.  Granted, generally the baboons are protected by the Human Wildlife Solutions rangers who are contracted to manage their movements but today the animals give them the slip and they roam freely.   Usually the rangers successfully keep them off the road.  In the past this troop has suffered badly through the negative impact of visitors encroaching into their space and through motorists feeding them.  I have blogged in previous posts here and here and in December last year.

So what is it about this narcissistic obsession of taking “Selfies”?   The visitors in this scene are Spanish speaking and are obviously not familiar with keeping a respectful distance from wild creatures.

31 thoughts on “Chacma baboons subjected to “Selfie” portraits

  1. “Individuals” you said… and I like that. Chacma also reminds me of Chakma refugees in our own country.

    But if they are attacked, these tourists will write about their horrible experiences. They will say it was “Unprovoked”. Idiots. What can you do? Not much. Wish there was a Darwin award for “selfies” as well.

    1. Looked up references on the plight of the Buddhist Chakma refugees, Tejaswi – sad that they have been denied citizenship after living in the country all those years. Intereting that here in the Cape the baboons are seen to be “res nullius” – of no abode, yet their ancestors were here long before man.
      I like that idea of the Darwin award for “selfies”!

  2. What Tejaswi says – again.

    Also, consumerism is inherently narcissistic. We have sound reasons for persisting in trying to dissuade baboons from indulging it. It will eat their brains.

    Those tourists look about as insightful and intelligent as bricks. Their self-obsession offers convincing proof that law enforcement can frequently be considered a good and necessary thing.

    But would we ever consider using paintball guns and bear clappers on such Lycra lovelies? No ways. In general, we are them.


      1. If there’s food in the equation, then there issues, but generally the incidents of ‘attacks’ are few. The baboons get the bad end of the deal if they become ‘raiders’. They’re great opportunists and will exploit food opportunities, and foolish humans are careless about securing easy food options. It’s sad as the baboons which can’t be controlled through negative conditioning (pain deterrence through paintball pellets) usually land up being euthenased.

      2. It sounds similar to bears here. We have a saying, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Not all people have the brains to keep food and garbage locked away. Sadly, animals pay for human lack of foresight.

  3. I was so incensed by your images of these tourists, Liz! How absolutely stupid to think they could simply walk up to the baboons and take photo’s of them … if one of them had got hurt, the baboon would have been trapped and euthanased for ‘attacking’ a person. It is irrelevant that they were foreign tourists, as the huge baboon signboards dotted all along this Scenic Route show clearly what they should not do by means of pictures specifically aimed at people who do not understand English! How I wish I was still on the road working with this special troop … these particular tourists would not have been allowed to leave their vehicles had I been there when it happened.

    1. Yes, it highlights that there is still a need to control the people aspect on the road. Can you remember the details regarding that Declaratory Order which City was seeking to determine Cape Nature and SanParks responsibilities? I recall that they got legal advise further back – CN’s role was conservation and SanP assigned preservation? It’s a pity there isn’t a similar ‘awareness campaign’ such as the Shark Spotters.

  4. I agree with the two previous comments, funny, when I told my OH about this the first thing he said was ‘Darwin award’. I like the idea of paintball guns on the lycra bums 😀

  5. Eish, some things beggar belief but if something goes horribly wrong like a nasty bite there will be an outcry and more Peninsula baboons will get culled. As if enough haven’t died already through human interaction gone wrong. I see Lynette shares the same view.

    1. Wish the people aspect could be controlled – if only the southern part of the peninsula between ST and Kommetjie be declared a special Conservation area where laws are applied and implemented to protect the wildlife….

  6. We get the same idiots in out national parks in Canada. Instead of harassing baboons, they interfere with bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, elk and, yes, bears. Sometimes the animals get even, and park staff almost always side with the animals.

    1. Oh i like that the park staff support the animals 🙂 I’ve seen footage on Nat Geo Wild on human wildlife conflict and it’s extraordinary that people have lost their caution around wild animals. Just can’t credit the stupidity!

  7. Is one of those tourists actually trying to pet a baboon? Do the baboons allow that? How dangerous is a baboon and have there been serious encounters in that area?

    1. “How dangerous is a baboon and have there been serious encounters in that area?”

      I’m prepared to go out on a limb and give you an unqualified layperson’s answer to your questions, OopsJohn. Unlike humans – and depending on how you define “dangerous”, “serious” and “encounter”, baboons pose no physical threat to other species.

      Like humans, however, they pose a great threat to members of their own – call it a species control mechanism, survival of the fittest or whatever you wish to.

      Focusing on human-baboon interaction – if cornered and provoked, baboons have the potential (in much the same way as any animal weighing 45-80 kilograms and possessing large teeth and claws) to inflict grievous injury.

      In researching the danger posed to humans by baboons, I read of a tourist killed when surprised by a baboon at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in, if memory serves me, 2011.

      The man slipped and fell to his death – untouched by the baboon.

      There are several reports of humans being scratched or bitten by baboons trying to escape cars on the Cape Peninsula (although I’ve not been able to dig up many news reports from the Web).

      In one incident – in 2006 – a British tourist and mother of a young boy followed a baboon in search of consumables into her unlocked car to retrieve her camera.

      Trapped, the baboon reportedly inflicted minor wounds.

      I’m sure there have been several similar cases.

      In its October 2015 report, the city’s service provider ( reported 386 baboons making up the Cape Peninsula’s ten managed troops. As a layperson (and I stress my lack of qualification to comment with any authority), my knowledge of baboons convinces me that a random sampling of 386 middle-to-large-sized domestic dogs would pose a greater threat to humans than would members of our baboon troops.

      Baboons are raiders and humans are swift to report suffering “trauma” when surprised by a baboon taking advantage of their carelessness.

      Do a Google search on “baboon attacks tourist” and have some fun. People, in general, are pretty dumb.

      The much-publicised 2011 euthenasing of Fred (Smitswinkel troop), who reportedly injured three tourists (I don’t know the circumstances and cannot locate any information) resulted from human, rather than Fred’s, behaviour. He was corrupted by locals (his body was riddled with shotgun pellets) and tourists and, as a passerby, I frequently retrieved visitors’ possessions from him.

      He was not aggressive or dangerous – he was smart and opportunistic.

      As mentioned in an earlier comment on this site, signage proclaiming “Baboons are dangerous and attracted by food” are there to protect our baboons rather than curious and frequently stupid humans.

      Our activities cause crippling injuries and deaths to baboons each month.

      We read and can, therefore and in part, be managed or controlled by such signage.

      1. I’d like to add a couple of comments here having experienced encounters with Fred and through volunteering time on baboon awareness campaigns in a suburb impacted by raiding baboons. The animals have certainly been given a bad rap but there are occasions where i would be very cautious – in times of dominance assertion within the ranks and when adult baboons are in raiding mode. In this state they are very different to the contented troop foraging in a natural environment. Many residents here in Murdock Valley had negative /traumatic experiences and through no fault of being careless or negligent. Michael Bates could be a point in case – his death was glossed over, but the baboon in question was ‘bullish’ – whether it was because the testosterone was kicking in or just a natural part of being a dispersing male, this is one baboon who paraded posture. Fred towards the end was fighting off six contenders for alpha male status; coupled with infighting injuries he could also have been suffering from all the lead and pellet shot. He was not in a good state and frequently he would mete out deferred aggression on lower ranking troop members. His behaviour towards the NCC rangers also changed; as it did towards anyone who tried to prevent him from raiding cars. The authorities also have a role to play – designated in upholding proper conservation measures, ie fining for feeding, proper waste management, etc Perhaps Fred may have lived to a ripe old age. I feel sad that the baboons have had to pay the price.

      2. Many thanks for adding a note of caution, Liz – my comment lacks it and 69-year-old Michael Bates’s tragic death certainly illustrates our need to respect baboons’ potential to cause harm, be it inadvertent or otherwise.

        His death was covered and lost in the local papers following what might be termed “adequate” reportage. IOL describes it thus:

        “‘I don’t know the exact details but apparently Jimmy was in the dormitory and was chased out – and as he came charging down the ramp, Michael, who was apparently standing at the end of the ramp, was in the way and got shoved off,’ Nussey said.”

        “Happy Valley Home manager Cindy Dollery said: ‘It was a freak accident. I’ve been told that one of the residents threw a jug of water at the baboon and, as it ran out, Mr Bates was knocked down. He died in his sleep on Sunday.'”


        I was unaware of the incident and it’s one of which we – especially our many middle-aged, elderly or very young visitors and residents – should all be mindful or reminded. The camera-protective British tourist noted above was, to put it bluntly, asking for it in much the same way as anybody taking on a raiding party is looking for trouble, trauma (as in physical injury) or an extremely frightening experience.

        Those who inadvertently get in the way of a fleeing, extremely fleet-footed 45-80 kilogram primate, as in Michael Bates’s or the Zimbabwean tourist’s case, are not.

        Baboons are wild animals. Treat them as such.

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