Baboon conflict on the Cape


Posted By on Sep 24, 2009

This morning the Handshake was met by Tali Hoffman, a researcher from the University of Cape Town’s Baboon Research Unit. Tali greeted us at Tokai Forest, on the Cape Peninsula north of Cape Town. The woodland area is a commercially planted area – however a number of baboon troops have taken residence, leading Tali’s research there. Currently the Cape is undergoing great difficulty with baboon and human conflict. Because of the geography of the Cape, urbanization has completely blocked the baboon’s path in and out of the area. This has lead to a clash between the baboon’s natural migration pattern and the local residential areas. Tali spoke to us about the history of baboons on the peninsula, and the perpetuating situation. “Baboons are considered as pests and vermin in the area – very little of the area is agricultural land. They are pests in terms of coming in to contact with people’s homes. They play on things – pulling at gutters and destroying thatched roofs.” Reading newspaper articles it is plain to see that baboons are held in contempt by the Cape community. Raiding houses and even taking residence in Cape Town University, the baboon/human conflict is certainly escalating. Tali’s solution to the problem is two fold: Baboon management, and people management. “Managing baboons is simpler – as long as we know what they need we can provide it; but trying to do that where people are abundant is quite difficult. People want to develop on land, and not have burglar bars on their windows [to keep the baboons out]. It is also the tourists who need monitoring – especially tourists who might feed the animals only adding to the problem.” Throughout the South African Handshake, a recurring theme has developed: education. Tali spoke of education being above all else in terms of solution. Tali told us of a specific case, exemplifying the severity of the situation on the Cape. A baboon named Bart was first spotted on the University campus in August last year. Bart is a dispersing male – a baboon who leaves his troop in search for another (a strategy employed by all male baboons at some stage in their lives to prevent inbreeding). Instead of another troop, Bart found University students. He was removed and transported to Cape Point, the furthest possible point away from the campus in the hope that he would integrate with some existing troops in the area. Unfortunately Bart was again found on campus six months later, feeding off human food daily. Bart is now a public figure – known well by people in the area. However due to his reluctance...

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Vervet Monkeys have a hard situation in South Africa. The species is seen as a pest, and because of human encroachment on their habitat, the vervet’s environment is in serious decline. David Du Toit – the founder of the Vervet Monkey Foundation (VMF) – spoke to the Handshake volunteers about the sanctuary and the plight of the vervet monkey. We visited the sanctuary, and tried to establish how best we can support the foundation. The VMF in Tzaneen has been running since the early 90’s. The sanctuary was founded out of necessity; after David found an orphan vervet monkey and reported it to local authorities – he was told to kill the baby as there was nowhere for it to go. David took in the orphan and soon one monkey turned to ten, and the sanctuary was born. Since then volunteers have been this non-profit foundation’s only work force, and are responsible for creating the safe environment that currently houses around 500 sick, orphaned and homeless vervets. The vervet is least popular with the farming community of South Africa. David explains, “if you put nice things in the way of children, they will take it. You could not shoot a child for taking an ice cream – yet the farmers shoot vervets for taking fruit that has been planted in the vervet’s habitat.” Unfortunately, this attitude is wide spread, and affects all wild life throughout South Africa. “A lot of changes have to be done – some enclosures have been around a long time. Expansion is not exactly on the cards – but it’s hard to say. You don’t know what’s around the corner. For the moment we have had to concentrate a lot of effort on the sanctuary itself. Because of the influx of so many monkeys over the last couple of years it’s become difficult with the shortage of funds and volunteers. Once that’s sorted – we can concentrate on planning releases, community outreach and restarting our monkey patrol.” Having recently constructed an education centre, the foundation is committed to affecting change. “The plan with the education centre is to eventually have school visits. Not for them to look around the entire centre, but certain sections to give them an understanding of the vervets and why we’re here to protect them… why we’re here to protect and conserve all wildlife.” Unfortunately, due to illness and massive demands from new arrivals, progress has temporarily slowed. The VMF’s self-proclaimed end goal is to put an end to the necessity for the sanctuary. But like many sanctuaries across Africa, The VMF is in a tough situation. The passion, initiative and dedication...

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