Spring has wafted in bringing some relief from the drought as swathes of wild flowers stretch across the veld. There’s an air of triumph about – a flap of wings and the squawking of little hatchlings. A welcome sight in our backyard is a newly fledged Cape wagtail chick. It plopped out of the nest like a little plum pudding and landed with a bump. The parents continue to fuss around encouraging it to fly, following with encouraging tweets.
Initially there was a setback with the first nest when it was abandoned after the local baboon troop came for a visit through the neighbourhood. They’d spent a week constructing a perfect little structure and had just lined it with soft feathers when the furry visitors rudely clambered right up the very jasmine creeper where it was sited and partially dislodged it in their rush to jump over the wall. The birds were so spooked that they took off and disappeared for a while before returning to choose a new site to rebuild. Happily there was a successful outcome and if the pattern of past years is repeated the adult pair may well produce two more batches of chicks this season.
The message here is if we paid a little more attention to disposing rubbish responsibly, stopped littering in conservation areas and secured refuse bins carefully wildlife such as the Cape’s Chacma baboons would be less inclined to raid bins for leftover food. Foraging in the wilds for roots and shoots is far healthier and natural food choice rather than the detritus left by humans.
The action follows on from the previous post where the international windsurfing set had gathered at Platboom, Cape of Good Hope Reserve. While most spectators’ attention was on the daring windsurfers out in the big seas, a drama unfolded on shore, when a wiley old female baboon staked out the cars waiting for a raiding opportunity. And she hit the jackpot – a car door was open and she made off with an easy lunch. Stuffed into those impressively full cheek pouches are a half dozen crispy breadrolls as well as a banana.
When the baboons lose their fear of humans and start raiding for human-derived food they can become overly persistent and even aggressive in their pursuit of an easy meal and land up being euthanased. “Problem” people are generally the cause of this change in the animals’ behaviour through actions of feeding or teasing the baboons or in this case where the food was too easily ‘available’.
I reached a milestone just the other day – five years of blogging! Although initially i was a reluctant blogger and got off to a slow start i’m now hooked by the WordPress community spirit.
Thank you to my fellow bloggers who’ve followed, commented, liked, engaged in topics and made it all worthwhile. I enjoy the connection to this virtual world where i can pop over to the far corners of the globe, discover all manner of information; get involved in ‘conversations’ and be inspired so that my bucket list of destinations grows ever longer.
Those who follow my posts will know that my interest is documenting the activity on the urban edge, the overlap between humans and wildlife.
My story really started with Fred and this is the shot which kicked it off –
It was during the summer season of 2008 that Fred, the alpha-male of the Smitswinkel baboon troop came to the attention of residents and motorists in the area for his emboldened raiding of houses and cars. He was to become quite an urban legend and even has an entry in Wikipedia.
This scene is a classic “Fred” shot but one which is overlaid with much pathos. While we laugh at the situation, it smacks of a sense of failed ‘conservation awareness’. Why would baboons want to raid cars, what was the attractant? Was this learned behaviour and who are the real culprits in these scenarios?
Hope you’ll watch out for further posts as i dig through the archives on my”Retrospective Journey”.
The element of surprise is the part i look forward to most when walking on our favourite beach. Yesterday I set off hoping to get some better photographs than the one below of some of the European swallows which like to inhabit an area near the coastal pathway. I admire these hardy little visitors who cover a long distance to spend summers on our shores.
It was a heavenly day, but the wind picked up and the wise little birds were sheltering in a different area. Meanwhile the surfers, fishermen, and kite boarders looked to be revelling in the freshning spindrift.
The swallows are forgotten as the antics of the baboons catch my attention. The three juveniles and baby can’t resist sliping and sliding down the dune and in their indulgence of the rough and tumble of everyday play :
Sliding, cartwheeling, with sheer exuberance.
All in a tangle of limbs.
Peeping from behind the reeds.
The little sets the pace.
On their way.
No wait up a while.
Stop for a nibble or two.
Rough and tumble.
Pa, the Alpha male comes padding by on a mission to get across the sand to the car park.
The family follow, romping along.
Meanwhile one of the sub-adult males is engaging in a reconnaisance of a different kind.
He’s on the prowl for food.
Checks out the door handles.
Looks inside for bags.
Tries a variety of techniques to get in, pressing on the glass windows, levering the gap between glass and window frame with his teeth.
Finally he finds an unlocked door and raids the car.
Fortunately there’s no food, but he still searches the bags.
As soon as the alpha male arrives, he beats it and leaves the scene.
Savvy baboons: they have learned that where there are people and cars, there is a possible source of easy food. Leaving bags on car seats and in sight through the windows will certainly attract their attention. Lay out a picnic or light a barbeque in their domain and they will come to investigate and even make off with food that’s laid out for the taking. We could take better care not to tempt them with human food when we come into the areas which overlap with their homerange.