Baboons on the urban edge

The baboons of the Cape Peninsula have a much different existence  than their relatives in the wild.  Primarily it is all about exploiting situations for the maximum of food returns.   As their fear of humans diminish so increases their daring and confidence in ‘raiding’ in surburban areas.  They have an amazing ability to adapt: savvy, athletic and excellent acuity of senses.   Living on the suburban ‘edge’ I have first-hand experience of a troop in raiding mode, and it can be daunting.    In June, 2009 I was involved in a project which experimented in finding ways to manage baboons by setting a ‘virtual line’ through using noise devices, in this case ‘bear bangers’ to keep them out of a residential area.  Working with the Smitswinkel troop, it had a successful outcome and with the continued management strategy of Nature Conservation Corporation’s (NCC) monitors, the troop (except for the odd dispersing male) hasn’t returned in three years.  So what happened to the troop?  They settled back in their old home range, between Millers Point and Smitswinkel Bay, raiding with ongoing frequency.   Part of the problem is that the area contains a hub of public amentities – an open restaurant, caravan park, boat launching slip,  picnic areas, scenic vantage points, tidal pool, and includes the road to Cape Point, a popular scenic route for tourists.    Human food which is easily available and makes “easy pickings” for the baboons is the antithesis to good wildlife conservation practice.

Since August 2012, the new baboon management contractors, Human Wildlife Services have adopted a more radical approach with the use of paintball guns in an attempt to curb raiding.  Thus far it appears that the baboons weigh up risk and reward; and reward outweighs the risk.

August 2015 –  The Smitswinkel troop has settled back into natural foraging behaviour and the scenes below are a record of the past.  Occasionally they venture along the urban edge on the mountainside but the wildlife rangers keep a check on their movements and they are quickly chased out of the urban area.   On a positive note, by moving them off the main road along the scenic route and avoiding contact with motorists who would stop and illegally feed the animals, the previous issues around car raiding has been solved.   Miller’s Point though with it’s picnic areas and restaurant is still unfenced and remains an attractive raiding option.

11 thoughts on “Baboons on the urban edge

  1. I don’t know what one can say… It’s sad how irresponsible we can be, and then blame the Baboons for their behaviour. It disturbs me when people call them ‘the vermin’, they don’t understand that they are actually so smart, that they have learned where to find an easy supper!! Thanks to all of you doing great work to save, rehabilitate and release monkeys and to those who are on the streets trying to educate. There’s no price for what you all do.

  2. You’ve got baboons, we’ve got deer, bear, foxes, possums and racoons that all want to share what I am growing in my garden! There is always that transition space between our human push into the wilder territory and the animals’ native habitats that we are invading. No easy solutions…

    1. You’re right, there are no easy solutions. Managing environments to curb raiding patterns is an ever evolving challenge. And you sure do have a diverse list of creatures wanting to browse in your garden. When we first moved into our property we planted new shrubs, saplings etc and in three weeks flat the dassies (rock hyrax) had eaten the lot. Learned the hard way to plant what is inedible to their tastes. As for the baboons, they far prefer what’s in the kitchen / dining room! I was interested in Peter Adams'(Tasmania) experimental veggie gardens, and how he designed contained areas .. That herculean task was a labour of love though.
      I look forward to popping over to your blog, ‘Beauty along the road’ is an inspiring title.

      1. Thank you for the windgrove link. Looks like peter has done some fascinating work in a very non-conducive environment.
        Are you familiar with permaculture and edible forest gardening? I have been studying it over the last few years trying to implement its principles in my gardens/landscape.

      2. I was curious to see what results peter would achieve when he started out due the similar issues we face here. My neighbour’s garden was planted along the lines of permaculture, a triple tier, creating microclimates. He’d even coaxed coffee to grow, right on the edge of our wind-blasted coastal strip. He was defeated though by our wild creatures voracious appetites. It must be rewarding to see the results and the relationship between the environments you’ve created in your garden. Hope you’ll post photos of your eden.

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