The Summer Season

It rained on New Year’s eve here in Cape Town and we awoke at dawn on the morning of the 1st to the gentle patter of raindrops still falling.  Now five days later it’s back to parched earth and the dam level aggregate has dropped to 29.1%.  We are worried; very worried.  The City Council warns that Day Zero could happen as early as 18 March – that is when the taps will be switched off and citizens will have to queue for water at designated collection points.

Meanwhile the summer season is in full swing; beaches, scenic sights, vineyards, restaurants are all buzzing with festivities and happy visitors.   At times residents feel overwhelmed and scuttle off to the lesser known spots. Or get up early to beat the queues to the beach or nature parks.

This past week the mornings have been sweetly scented and cool and as we’ve set out to hike or cycle through our favourite nature reserve we’ve tended to see animals on the move, generally moving through an area foraging.   Recent sightings of five different baboon troops highlight how their behaviour changes when their territory overlaps with the park’s recreational areas or how the attractants in town, like the refuse bins lure them off the mountain. For most of the year the baboons forage on natural vegetation or in the rock pools.  Come summer and the picnic spots draw them like bees to a honeypot.

Below the Buffels troop check out the barbecue area for scraps.

In contrast the baboons in the photos (below) of the Kanonkop troop like to forage in natural vegetation.

On the Atlantic side of the Peninsula, another troop – probably the Olifantsbos troop dash across the beach in a strong breeze to get to the rock pools to forage for mussels and other shellfish delicacies.

The Smitswinkel troop are generally kept off the road by the conservation rangers, but this season we’ve found them on the road several times – a hazardous situation for both baboons and motorists.

Baboons from the Waterfall troop sometimes make excursions into town to raid the rubbish bins –

28 thoughts on “The Summer Season

  1. The pressure from humans must be intense for these troops, but they adapt to our refuse quite easily, I expect, for better or worse.
    Pretty scary to think you may be facing water rationing. Serious business, that is. When is your rainy season?

    1. Winter rain in our mediterranean climate. But the climate is changing bringing us a little more summer rain. Waiting hopefully for March when the autumn rain could / should begin.

    2. Yes, sadly that is the case. People are careless and baboons are opportunistic, easily raiding picnic areas and drawn to refuse bins. There are conservation rangers who monitor and herd the troops away from the urban edge but at this time of year with the influx of visitors and motorists it’s no easy job to keep the animals out of the recreational/ barbecue areas.
      It’s a winter rainfall region – generally May is the start to the season. This crisis has been looming for a while yet only 36% of residential home owners are complying with restricted usage. Had there been tighter control we may have made it through to the next rainy season. We hearing that the taps may be switched off as early as March 18th.

      1. Yes there are meters, and charges per tariffs according to usage but the city officials have been slow in implementing fines and clamping down on excessive use. Tighter rationing should have been enforced way back. Residents who have cut back on usage fall below the chargeable figure, so City now is proposing a Drought Tariff to raise funds to implement alternate solutions.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful images of 5 of the troops, Liz! However, I’m really sad to hear that the Smits troop have been found on the road several times by you. Even more worrying, is that out of the 3 photo’s you posted of this troop, two of them show baboons with people’s trash.

    1. Hi Lynette, it’s worrying and as you know the volume of traffic is bad at this time of the year, and the road tricky with the blind corners. I’m going to drop a line to HWS with these concerns. I notice that they team use a red flag to warn motorists, but it’s not used consistently.
      I took photos this morning of unsecured bins at Castle Rock. It’s depressing that the residents there are so lackadaisical. The Waterfall troop is easily evading the HWS team … same old problem – being on foot they can’t keep up.

  3. We were lucky to see the baboons (and visitors) well behaved while spending time in the Cape of Good Hope section in December.

    We’re thinking of you all coping with the awfully persistent drought, Liz.

    1. Hi de Wets, happy to know you found the baboons :). I was sorry to miss your visit – next time?
      Thanks for your thoughts re the drought. The situation is very scary as City appears to be ill prepared. We wait to see whether the measures they are talking about – setting up desalination plants, increasing the output from the aquifers actually come on line!

  4. Love your gallery of the Kanonkop troop and the ones on the beach. I know that stinging sand very well, and the temperature of the water on that side of the peninsula! I guess the influx of tourists doesn’t help the water situation. People who don’t live there might not be as careful with the use of water as they should. And restaurants etc must use an awful lot during the busy season. I wish I could send you some of our rain, we have definitely got plenty, though I did hear on the TV last night something about a hosepipe ban in the summer. Now surely that HAS to be fake news!!

    1. I can read your nostalgia for the Cape running through your comments Jude! The visitor figures for 2016 Christmas period were over 1million and the tourism board were expecting to top that this season. That’s a huge influx of people! It’s so crazy that there are severe weather events, polar vortex, hurricane storms, heat waves…. and bizarre to read that there could be a hosepipe ban coming up for you in summer! It’s got to be fake news, but i’ll check back with you in August!

  5. I do hope your drought lifts soon Liz. Our drought of 10 years was at its worst in 2010 with dams down to 20% and lots of restrictions. But, like you mention, the tourists still party on , mainly oblivious to the problems. Then the drought broke in 2011 with horrendous flooding. At the moment we are ok. Loved to see all the antics of the baboons

    1. Thanks for the comments Pauline, they bring some reassurance though ten years is a long stretch! I keep thinking that we’ll muddle through with innovative solutions, but if this is going to be a long term event with the effects of climate change we’re in for dire times ….. just thinking of the agriculture sector here and how devastating it will be to the farmers let alone how the city will cope!
      Glad to read you’re okay – water isn’t it such a precious resource!

      1. This morning I found a leak in the water pipes in the garden. Oh dear, Water all running down the drive. Have turned off at the mains and called the plumber. Don’t want to waste a drop of the precious liqui …

    1. It is sad, and the baboons are at risk coming into the urban areas – but the refuse bins are inviting attractants and while the city has issued lockable bins for the residents, the town bins along the main street are easy targets.

  6. As usual, beautiful photos, especially of the baboons foraging on the beach. Sad to see human trash becoming animal diet. Is there any way to inform visitors and get area businesses to help with the need for stringent water usage?

    1. Thanks Mary! I appreciate the observant comment. I’ve been meaning to reorganize my blog for some time and set up dedicated pages for various interests – including how it all started with the baboons. Just need to allocate time – which is just so scarce!

  7. I spent my Christmas break back in Cape Town, I really love going back there. It is a very vibrant city, beautiful people, very yummy food, I love having braiis (sorry my spelling) :/ but it was indeed a very different one, visiting friends’ homes I got the insight of how much Cape Town really needs to use water wisely. Love following your blog. “Nature on the Edge”

    1. Thank you Betzabeth, glad you enjoy visiting our Fairest Cape. We’re seriously worried about the taps running dry! Hopefully we’ll avoid Day Zero thro’ frugal use, but it’s doubtful. Praying the rainy season will start early.

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