A couple of weeks ago I was cycling through the Smitswinkel baboon range, passing Miller’s Point when I was startled out of my early morning reverie as a baboon came ‘hoofing up’ behind me. Smart “chirps” from fellow cyclists …. ” Like your new coach” … “Better hurry up he’s catching you…”
It served as a reminder of just how athletic and how quickly Chacma baboons cover ground. Apparently they can clock speeds of up to 56 km/hour. Of interest was his intention and direction in which he was running – towards town, though first he detoured via the parking area near the picnic grounds to check on a vehicle where two fishermen were gearing up for a day’s fishing. The car doors were wide open, so he went by to recce whether there were any ‘easy food pickings’. No luck, they chased him off. And on he went, up and over the hill towards the houses. Sure enough later that morning a video clip of a house raid came up on the local WhatsApp group. Eggs! Calmly seated on top of a kitchen counter, he was filmed tucking into a dozen raw eggs. This was a devastating sight! Scoring a nutritious hit such as this high quality protein meal would only serve to reinforce raiding behaviour. Householders need to do a lot better at baboon-proofing homes, and stepping up vigilance in preventing baboons from entering.
The City of Cape Town hires contractors who deploy field rangers, but managing free ranging wild animals such as these agile baboons is no easy task. The use of tracking tools such as telemetry and VHF collars assist in keeping tabs on their movements, but there are drawbacks for the rangers being on foot, and the animals often give the men the slip. We can’t just rely on the rangers to keep the baboons out of the suburbs, there also needs to be a collective ‘buy in’ and response from the residents to minimise attractants and keep refuse bins secure and out of sight.