South Africa

Anger brews over methods used to manage Betty’s Bay baboons

Cape Town - The baboons roaming the mountains above the holiday town of Betty’s Bay are dividing this normally tranquil seaside spot in the Overstrand Municipality with accusations and counter-accusations on how to manage these roving scavengers.

Such is the anger that some residents and conservation groups have called for the contract of the Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS), a service provider managing baboons in the area, to be terminated. They have also renewed their calls for a workshop to resolve the on-going issues regarding management of baboons.

This after the “killing” of a male baboon called “Scarface” last week, despite being given a reprieve from execution.

The residents allege that since the appointment of HWS, “with its cruel and extreme methods”, the deterioration in the condition of the troop was evident, house invasions by baboons had increased and the local residents have been left further polarised and divided.

The Save Cape Baboons organisation said HWS was contracted by the Overstrand Municipality to monitor baboons in Betty’s Bay and this was done without prior public participation.

Scarface was killed last week, despite being given a reprieve from execution. Picture: Supplied

HWS uses techniques that deliberately instil fear in the baboons by means of “virtual fence” technology with related predatorial sounds.

Paintball guns designed to hurt are the weapons of choice. Non-judicial shooting of paintballs by monitors results in pain and injuries.

“Rap sheets” of so-called “Habitual raiders” mark the baboon for a lethal “solution”.

Anton Bredell, who heads the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, instructed Mayor Dan Plato to facilitate a workshop in order to address Baboon Management Reform and we are still waiting,” the organisation said.

An Overstrand resident and ratepayer who asked not to be named said prior to the arrival of Human Wildlife Services (HWS) in Betty’s Bay there were few reported house entries by the baboons in the five years that she had lived in the area.

“Since HWS arrived here just over a year ago, it seems that the baboons, having been chased continually by HWS monitors in the fynbos and when trying to get to the seaside rocks where they eat mussels, became frantic for food and didn’t appear to be spending as much time feeding in the fynbos or on the rocks.

“They chose the easier way of finding food – that of raiding homes. I feel that HWS has done more harm than good with the small troop of Betty’s Bay baboons,” she said.

She said the Overstrand Municipality was yet to explain to ratepayers why they were spending nearly R30 million on a contract with HWS to terrify, confuse and kill the baboons.

Pringle Bay Baboon Action Group (PBBAG) chairperson Taffy Roberts said in 2019 PBBAG’s baboon management approach fell away when it was taken over by the Overstrand Municipality and their contractors.

He said while the PBBAG was initially able to persuade the municipality and the contractor to continue the softer herding approach, it became evident that this was not to be so.

“In the eyes of PBBAG this baboon management initiative has failed. The PBBAG is also concerned that the ’baboon management protocols’ supplanted from the Cape Town Peninsula baboon management plan are not suitable for baboon management in the Koegelberg biosphere areas,” he said.

Overstrand Municipality requested to respond to questions after three days while the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning did not respond.

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