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.