Grape-scented condoms, abalone poachers and baboons

How do these three aspects connect you may wonder?  Strewn about condom wrappers could perhaps conjure up images of hot sex orgies in the bush?  The scene is set in a secluded picnic area in Buffels Bay in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve so one might have anticipated a bit of hanky-panky.  But there’s a far more sinister reason for the empty wrappers and that’s where the abalone poachers come in.  Diving for abalone is prohibited, but there are all the tell-tale signs of illegal poaching activities – shucked abalone shells, evidence of overnight campsites, even at times wetsuits stashed in the bush.  The condoms are used as an outer waterproof covering for cell phones which are set to vibrate in case of warning signals when the divers are ready to exit the water.  How sad it is that the stocks of this edible delicacy are being wiped out.  No guesses needed as to where the end product (cured and smoked) ends up – yes China!

Being curious creatures, the baboons are attracted to litter and will often taste test the various discarded items particularly if there are lingering food scents.  To discover them sucking on these grape-scented wrappers was totally disconcerting.  On closer inspection the condom packs turned out to be the government issued “freebies”, never mind that they are supplied as part of the drive to curb the HIV/Aids pandemic.

32 thoughts on “Grape-scented condoms, abalone poachers and baboons

    1. Well…we do have our baboon troops to look to for upliftment, Diana.

      I’ve always held them in infinitely higher regard than many of my own species – despite their proclivity for indulging behaviours most unsuited to what we might deem civilised family life. Whether gathering mussels at Olifantsbos, dive-bombing Sirkelsvlei or mugging tea parties at Buffels Bay, they retain a dignity we’ve surrendered to a sordid lifestyle epitomised by the signature condoms now littering the last-mentioned spot.

      TMNP and every species falling within it remain under constant assault by poachers. Whether casting crayfish pots off Olifantsbos, lifting the same out at Platbank or fishing off The Coves, I’ve watched and photographed them. In the last instance, I didn’t approach them as they had easy access to their knives, but I was down there for the day, so I trailed them back at the end of it and – badabing – I watched with great pleasure as they were loaded into the back of a van by the rangers.

      All fauna and flora have their uses, poachers have no scruples and the park is hard up against the city. It was always going to be a tough ask for SANParks and any of its partners but I must say that, over the years, I’ve been pretty impressed by just how much our rangers are able to do with the extremely limited resources they have at their disposal.

      Like me, the baboons merely sit and watch this ceaseless cycle of lowlife scavengers prowling through our last wild space. I like to imagine our shared observation and disdain for such destructive behaviour raises me to their level, and I feel somewhat the better for it.

      1. Adding to your descriptions here Mike, I would add the familiar phrase ‘acting with impunity’. So glad to read your observation of the rangers catching a batch of the lowlife scavengers. These thieves operate so brazenly and the haul of illegal perlemoen and crayfish per tonnage threaten their very existence. Now we are seeing more buck carcasses and wondering whether they are being trapped for their meat? And so it goes …

    1. Isn’t it staggering just how badly natural resources are being depleted! Recently I read a report on criminal syndicates smuggling ‘wildlife goods’ from armadillos to glass eels in a trade becoming more lucrative than drug smuggling. A case that was really startling was that of a stolen owl from an aviary on a remote western island in the outer Hebrides which revealed a trade in birds of prey being shipped to the Middle East!!

    1. Yes so many aspects to tackle and it all appears so hopeless as to whether the tide can be turned here against crime and poverty. This is a country where the systems are broken and the rate of unemployment is scary (27.9% officially; 35% is a more accurate figure). With entrenched criminal syndicates trading in every illegal opportunity it’s a huge challenge!!

  1. Hard hitting as usual – the pictures say so much more. Thank you for highlighting not only the abuse of our natural resources but those meant to promote ‘health’.

    1. Isn’t it depressing! ‘Acting with impunity’ … a phrase that is so familiar, these poachers are blatant in their activities and get away with it. It’s so sad that the environment and baboons are impacted by their flagrant negligence.

    1. It surely is! Depressingly so and at the same time it gets to me, makes my blood boil that there is so much illegal pillaging of sea resources and little regard to consequences. That baboons can be impacted by synthetically flavoured grape condoms!! That’s just so low!

  2. I think in the end most people don’t care. They do what they can get away with. They probably don’t even think about the damage they’re doing 😦
    I hope the baboons are not actually eating the wrappers.
    Alison

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