Baboon car raids – who is to blame?

The popular Cape Town cycle tour is to be held on Sunday (12 March) and as the participants and visitors arrive in preparation for the event the peninsula is abuzz.   35,000 cyclists are registered to take part.   The lead up on the roads with the mix of cyclists, motorists, heavy vehicles, tour buses and wildlife sometimes result in dangerous situations.   The stretch of road between Millers Point and to the top of the Smitswinkel rise has been particularly challenging especially with it’s blind rises and sharp bends.  A couple of days ago, dodging cyclists and tour buses we came across this scene where a troop of baboons scattered across a section of road and motorists had pulled off to get a close-up viewing.   Generally this troop’s movements are curtailed by appointed rangers, but this day they had given them the slip.   What followed was inevitable,  car windows were open and baboons being opportunistic went to investigate.   A female baboon made off with a backpack, which fortunately she surrendered when chased.  Luckier still is that the adult male baboon following behind did not challenge the man as he retrieved the bag.  It’s doubly disappointing that careless motorists aren’t penalised or fined as this particular troop is being “conditioned” through the use of noise / pain deterence to prevent raiding behaviour.   If motorists abided by the conservation laws and kept their car windows up and doors locked the baboons would have a better chance of not becoming raiders.

Baboons forage at low tide while Caracal lurks nearby

Summer’s _Careless Tourists

Baboon with the fullest cheek pouches.

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’.