Living at the urban edge brings daily encounters with wild neighbours. Some animals adapt to the transformed environment finding perfect eco-niches. Guinea fowl scratch around in garden beds, mongoose ferret out lizard eggs, or birds’ nests, the nocturnal visitors such as porcupine and genet roam about at night, and the occasional caracal stalks out prey at dawn and dusk. Just down the road live the penguins, and in caves in the mountains above, the Chacma baboons find sleeping sites for the night.
Baboons on the Cape Peninsula have a checkered existence. The 5 troops that inhabit the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which encompasses 7,750 hectares of diverse habitats – from rocky mountains to coastal beaches, roam freely. Some troops even jump the fence to venture beyond the park. The other 11 troops are confined to small pockets of fragmented land at the interface of urban-green space. It is difficult to limit the animals to a natural boundary and the proximity to residential areas fuels ongoing human-wildlife conflict. Even though these ‘outside’ troops are managed by an appointed conservation contractor and assigned rangers to curb their encroachment into the urban area, it was never going to be easy to prevent opportunistic foraging for the best or easiest food returns. Conducted studies show that there are “extreme behavioural shifts by baboons exploiting risky resource-rich human modified environments.”
The troops living within COGH nature reserve go about their day, amongst the fynbos at a leisurely and unhurried pace roaming at will, their inherent foraging and social behaviour intact. This is a far cry from the baboons that foray into the suburban areas where the animals split into raiding parties, and venture off in separate directions.