Over recent months, there has been an escalating situation on the Cape peninsula concerning baboons. A major conservation problem exists on the peninsula, in that an isolated population of baboons can’t leave the area and new baboons can’t enter. The natural migration routes have been gradually blocked by urbanization, meaning that the pathway to other potential baboon habitats and troops has been replaced by developed land. This unnatural isolation has lead to a number of existing and developing problems – one of the main being dispersing male baboons finding towns and cities instead of other baboon troops.
A few months ago the management protocol on the Cape for dispersing male baboons was that if any male entered the urban space three times, he would be euthanized. The Baboon Management Trust decided that the ruling was too harsh – that of course all males will eventually enter the urban space three times, systematically leading to the extinction of all males from this population. The protocol was revised, which included relocation (in Bart’s case) to a troop with an opening for a new male. The protocol now allows for numerous relocations, however with the cost amounting to roughly 10,000 Rand to transfer a baboon across the Cape, there are only so many relocations available to specific baboons before a more permanent solution is proposed.
The decision is ultimately left to the Wildlife Advisory Committee. They oversee all wildlife throughout South Africa, and using Bart as an example, the committee has decided that as he has displayed no interest in integration with other troops despite numerous efforts, the only option left is euthanasia. With four other male baboons currently being tracked having dispersed and being spotted in urban areas, and twelve males on the outskirts of Tokai forest waiting to disperse, the situation is definitely worsening.
A sanctuary has been suggested, although local land managers have expressed little interest in the idea; and with an unavoidably large bill to build and maintain the establishment, it would be highly difficult to initiate a sanctuary for baboons on the Cape.
Baboon management on the Cape is in a peculiar position. The situation is fairly unique – high human conflict and no cultural attachment to the animal means that little compassion towards a long-term solution such as a sanctuary can be seen. With the Cape conflict on the rise, a solution to the problem is desperately needed. Both in the short term for the existing urbanized baboons, and long term in the hope to resolve the problem.