Res Nullius

Two separate encounters with different baboon troops this week left me wryly thinking about the strange anomaly in their conservation management.  They are a protected species here on the Peninsula but the job of conserving the troops falls under the management of different authorities.  There’s a certain irony even trying to curtail the movement of wild, agile creatures yet the troops living between the suburbs are assigned rangers to move them along and keep them out of the residential areas.  Broadly defined as “res nullius” – a thing belonging to no one whether because never appropriated (as a wild animal) – allows  certain wildlife authorities to conveniently pass the buck.  The main responsibility of the rangers is to prevent them from developing raiding patterns for seeking out human-derived food.

Pictured below are scenes of the Smitswinkel troop (which roam on the outside beyond the boundaries of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve) visiting the Reserve and raiding the facilities at the entrance, while the City’s contracted conservation rangers aren’t allowed in to chase them out!!

Juvenile baboons raiding a refuse bin at the entrance to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.
Juvenile baboon lifting window to widen the gap to get in.

Displaying his agility, a young baboon jumps clear after exiting a window.

Deeper into the CoGH park, here’s the scene where a local park troop rouses and warms in the rays of the early morning sun before setting off for the day’s foraging in the fynbos where for the most part, they roam freely without being tagged or monitored by full time rangers.

Baboons in the early morning light, gathering before moving on for the day.
Sheltering out of the cold wind, baboons warm in the sun, limbs tucked in tight to their bodies.
Enjoying the warmth of the early morning sunshine.


15 thoughts on “Res Nullius

  1. Hi Liz, Seeing the Smits troop at the Cape Point entrance in your images, reminds me of the old days, when I ended up being the only person who could enter the Reserve to herd the troop out of the Reserve and back towards the monitors. Which troop were the ones sunning themselves in your last images? I love the obvious enjoyment they were experiencing as they warmed themselves in the early morning sun … ❤

    1. Hello Lynette 🙂. It’s such a crazy situation – the Smits troop benefit from the fynbos in the park and this issue of not allowing the monitors in impacts the troop if they try raiding the entrance building. You were a star in your commitment towards this special troop. The other is the Buffels – they’d spent the night near the Information Centre. Sometimes they sleep in those amazing Monterrey Pine trees.

  2. Like we have ‘bear-proof’ refuse bins in parks here, your region needs ‘baboon-proof’ ones for your parks. Only I expect the design would have to be much more clever!

    1. You hit the nail on the head Eliza!! Actually that bin featured was supposed to be baboon-proof – easily overcome by brute force. They are pretty determined creatures and part of the problem is that people don’t reset the locking element. So there we go again with humans creating the issues and the animals taking the rap!

  3. Red tape … there shouldn’t be refuse bins there anyway. Tourists need to be encouraged to take out what they take in – one cannot blame the baboons for foraging.

    1. It would be such a step forward if it was ‘take your refuse out’ area! How to educate people to comply, that would be the challenge. I’m afraid the locals are the worst culprits for not caring. The baboon proof bin designs are hopeless as well so sadly it’s all stacked against the baboons 🙁.

  4. I hadn’t thought about baboons in a more urban setting, let alone raiding trash receptacles. Just goes to show we have so many of the same problems with wild critters. I love these photos – they are candid – real life in your area.

    1. Thanks for your insightful comments Lori. Isn’t it interesting to see the patterns, especially how wildlife is attracted into areas by cast out food in trash bins. Also in finding solutions – international studies and sharing experience. The conservation team for managing the baboons (keeping them out of the residential areas) use telemetry and VHF collars also at one stage sound deterrence using ‘bear bangers’ as based on field experience with bears out your way 😎. It works!

  5. Your photos always tell such poignant stories. With the expansion of the human population, I wonder whether there are any viable solutions to issues like this that benefit the wildlife.

    1. Population growth is a huge concern! But maybe Atreyee, there is hope in the growing awareness for preserving wild spaces and in setting legal limits to the expanding urban edge?
      For dispersing or migratory creatures finding a way through the obstacles of a transformed landscape is nigh impossible. But i think there is positive work in the creations of wildlife corridors allowing unrestricted movement. Also perhaps the swing to mitigate climate change may be a turning point for replanting forests and maintaining natural environments, creating safe havens again for wild creatures…..
      You wouldn’t believe the degree of heated debate over conservation issues involving the baboons here on the Peninsula! Through the decades there have been thorough discussions (workshops, PhD studies on various aspects, expert opinions, conferences, endless meetings between all and affected parties etc). The bottom line here in the urban space is the City’s legal responsibility towards it’s citizens in upholding its health and safety regulations. But give the City officials their due – they fund the conservation management in keeping the animals out of suburbs and on the mountain in their natural habitat. The compromise – the animals exist if their wild roaming conforms to the set ‘boundaries’.

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