Well blow me down! Half a world away from the wiley baboons of the Cape Peninsula, (South Africa) here in South East Asia, Cambodia – the Angkor Wat troop of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) have similar tactics, grabbing an item and waiting for the gullible human to offer decoy food in exchange.
” Got the glasses, now what are you going to do to get them back……?”
“Let’s have a bit of a play …..”
“Maybe a dip in the water….?”
There you have it. Feed wild animals, habituate them to receiving food, they become pests and then they “steal” items in exchange for food. Clever creatures.
How do these three aspects connect you may wonder? Strewn about condom wrappers could perhaps conjure up images of hot sex orgies in the bush? The scene is set in a secluded picnic area in Buffels Bay in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve so one might have anticipated a bit of hanky-panky. But there’s a far more sinister reason for the empty wrappers and that’s where the abalone poachers come in. Diving for abalone is prohibited, but there are all the tell-tale signs of illegal poaching activities – shucked abalone shells, evidence of overnight campsites, even at times wetsuits stashed in the bush. The condoms are used as an outer waterproof covering for cell phones which are set to vibrate in case of warning signals when the divers are ready to exit the water. How sad it is that the stocks of this edible delicacy are being wiped out. No guesses needed as to where the end product (cured and smoked) ends up – yes China!
Being curious creatures, the baboons are attracted to litter and will often taste test the various discarded items particularly if there are lingering food scents. To discover them sucking on these grape-scented wrappers was totally disconcerting. On closer inspection the condom packs turned out to be the government issued “freebies”, never mind that they are supplied as part of the drive to curb the HIV/Aids pandemic.
The early morning scene at Boulder’s Beach hums with activity as the African penguins rouse for the day. On the domestic front, the nesting sites are vigorously dug over, sand flying out the deeper holes. Often there is a squabble or two with loud protestation – these little creatures relative to their size have voice projection in volumes. Down at the waters edge groups preen and stretch preparing to go out to sea leaving the chicks huddled together in the creche area. The adults have a straight backed posture and though they waddle, it is with intent. Down to the sea they go – just for some though, there’s the odd dalliance –
Two separate encounters with different baboon troops this week left me wryly thinking about the strange anomaly in their conservation management. They are a protected species here on the Peninsula but the job of conserving the troops falls under the management of different authorities. There’s a certain irony even trying to curtail the movement of wild, agile creatures yet the troops living between the suburbs are assigned rangers to move them along and keep them out of the residential areas. Broadly defined as “res nullius” – a thing belonging to no one whether because never appropriated (as a wild animal) – allows certain wildlife authorities to conveniently pass the buck. The main responsibility of the rangers is to prevent them from developing raiding patterns for seeking out human-derived food.
Pictured below are scenes of the Smitswinkel troop (which roam on the outside beyond the boundaries of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve) visiting the Reserve and raiding the facilities at the entrance, while the City’s contracted conservation rangers aren’t allowed in to chase them out!!
Deeper into the CoGH park, here’s the scene where a local park troop rouses and warms in the rays of the early morning sun before setting off for the day’s foraging in the fynbos where for the most part, they roam freely without being tagged or monitored by full time rangers.
It’s been a while since i last posted and since returning home after some months of travel, it is heartening to be back in the rainy season. And rain we have, buckets of it. The dams are filling nicely and it looks promising that the harsh drought conditions are behind us.
My travel adventures begin to dim as i hook up again into the language of the familiar, but i’d love to share some of the experiences once i’ve got the photos sorted. There are so many aspects when travel unfolds, from the hubbub of major cities to the quiet of the backroads. Nature delivered some drama too, a bruising from the ‘Beast from the East’ to the unfurling of an exuberant Northern Hemisphere spring. I had a lucky encounter with a Falconer and a Red kestrel working King’s Cross Railway station; stumbled across the Richmond deer herd in a snow storm, met “Cheddar Man” at the Natural history museum; rambled over hill and dale where meadow flowers bloomed in profusion. All the while discovering new habitats and learning to read the landscape – from bluebell glades, acidic uplands, limestone pavements, salt marshes and water, water, water! But most intriguing was seeing how nature finds it’s footing within eco-niches in densely populated urban areas. Who’d have thought that a visit to Tate Modern would also bring a viewing of peregrine falcons nesting high up in the very same building or of foxes roaming boldly through some of the inner London suburbs?
Settling back again into a Cape routine, the dawn chorus comes rustling in with a guttural cacophony of Egyptian geese, hadedah ibis and raucous gulls. I watch in delight as furry creatures scurry across the lawn (green and verdant now) – a mongoose scampers by with two pintsized, energetic juveniles, the baboons make quick unannounced visits, and so too, the nocturnal porcupine family with it’s gorgeous, prickly little baby. Further along the road, the penguin nursery is in full swing attending to the raising of young. This wild bevy of beauties makes my heart soar – here is a natural world right on the doorstep. The wagtails and sunbirds are searching for nesting places and down below on the rocks the dassies sun themselves after the rain showers. A single otter comes often, mud-bathing in the wet black soil. My next door neighbours describe exciting sightings of two caracals, an adult and a youngster, and the opportunity to observe these secretive wild lynx at close quarters.