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There was nothing ‘spiteful’ in City of Cape Town d...

South Africa

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

There was nothing ‘spiteful’ in City of Cape Town decision to reconsider baboon monitoring — our hand was forced

A baboon sits on a rock at Cape Point in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / MARK SKINNER)

The City of Cape Town withdrew the use of paintball markers by baboon monitors after the NSPCA, being the oversight authority for animal welfare, withdrew its support. Unfortunately, the NSPCA did not see fit to engage the city on alternative methods before announcing its decision.

Marian Nieuwoudt is Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, City of Cape Town.

The city notes the opinion piece by Taryn Blyth — Baboon Management: City of Cape Town shows its spiteful sideon 31 May 2021.

It is somewhat ironic that the organisation which has committed the most resources to the Cape Peninsula baboons for over 10 years should be described as “spiteful”. Since it was introduced in 2012, the City of Cape Town’s Urban Baboon Programme has seen the chacma baboon population grow year-on-year to levels not seen in more than two decades. We nevertheless take the points made and wish to clarify the city’s recent actions.

The welfare of the Cape Peninsula’s chacma baboons is a complex matter involving (in theory at least) all three spheres of government, in addition to residents, interest groups, NGOs, businesses and parastatal organisations such as the NSPCA and the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.

All stakeholders who work within this space are trying their best in navigating a way forward that will see improved outcomes for baboons and residents alike. At the heart of these efforts is the desire for a healthy and sustainable population of wild baboons on the Cape Peninsula.

On this note one must spare a thought for the baboon rangers who are out in the field every day, doing the best they can in keeping baboons and residents safe. The rangers, however, are sometimes victimised, undermined and verbally abused by residents who disagree with the methodology applied, or the Urban Baboon Programme in its entirety.

The city withdrew the use of paintball markers after the NSPCA, being the oversight authority for animal welfare, withdrew its support for the use of paintball markers on baboons, declaring that this method causes “unnecessary suffering”. This decision falls within its statutory mandate. Unfortunately, the NSPCA did not see fit to engage the city or other roleplayers on alternative methods before announcing its decision, resulting in a lacuna as the paintball markers had to be withdrawn.

For the record, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA participated in the review of paintball marker protocols in 2018 and 2019, and the original protocols were approved by the NSPCA in 2012.

The city cannot allow a situation where baboon rangers are at risk of being prosecuted for animal cruelty. The city is, for example, aware that a charge of animal cruelty has already been laid by the SPCA against baboon rangers in another area of the Western Cape.

Another factor for consideration is how the rangers are to defend themselves and others when faced by aggressive male baboons if they have no suitable tools at their disposal to do so.

The panel which the city was tasked by the NSPCA to set up does not fall within the mandate of the city. The city’s Urban Baboon Programme is regulated in terms of provincial and national legislation, including the Animal Protection Act, and it is those statutory authorities who should take the lead.

The city is working with CapeNature, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, the Western Cape Government and others on possible solutions.

A first meeting of these authorities and the city took place on 26 May 2021 and the framework of a way forward was discussed. We will also be informing the public of the changes to the Urban Baboon Programme that result from this process.

It is tempting to criticise and blame when you are not familiar with the complexities at hand, nor confronted by the realities on the ground. There are no simple or easy solutions, nor quick fixes.

Constructive proposals are always welcome, sarcasm, unfortunately, may be entertaining in the short-term, but does nothing to bring us closer to the answers we are all looking for. DM

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All Comments 2

  • An interesting piece – informative and useful which puts out a little known reality to the problem – away from the media and baboon public relations messaging which occupies centre stage.
    Yes it is complex but the media needs to report the picture in a balanced way.
    I sit on the fence !

  • I do not sit on the fence,the spca has lost the plot, baboon huggers are like woke about the whole matter they do not contribute to any damage caused by these wild animals.I love wild animals and believe they must be free but when they encroach on humans and their property for food ,scavenging,being a danger, a paint ball seems a small price to pay.Relocation is the best option.I once was on sir Lowry pass at the lookout point, where there were also baboons scavenging and some holiday makers from gauteng had parked their bakkie and was enjoying the view.They left the canopy door open with their small child in the back.There was also food in the back.I warned them to take the child out of there as a baboon could enter and a screaming child would lead to something dreadful happening.2 minutes after they took the child out a baboon entered and created havoc..The bottom line is the spca and baboon huggers don’t come with alternatives nor do they refund anybody for damages.They are very quick to criticize anybody who doesn’t agree with them.The spca could do well to spend more time on stray animals,illegal hunting with dogs on the cape flats, Mitchell’s plain, khayalitsha area.Search for tortoises being tied to doors with a piece of rope to keep the tokolosh away. Look after horses that are abused by gangs etc,and dog fighting.

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