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‘Beloved’ Simon’s Town baboon euthanised, X-rays reveal several bullet wounds

‘Beloved’ Simon’s Town baboon euthanised, X-rays reveal several bullet wounds
Van Damme shortly after he joined the Smitswinkel Bay Troop in 2020. He dispersed from the Waterfall Troop in Simon's Town. (Photo: Anya Adendorff)

X-rays of an adult male baboon from the Smitswinkel troop in the Simon’s Town area revealed up to 15 penetrating pellet gun wounds to his head, torso, arms and legs. The baboon, known among locals as Van Damme, was examined by the SPCA and later euthanised.

An adult male baboon from the Smitswinkel troop in the Simon’s Town area was euthanised on Tuesday, 21 February, after an investigation by SPCA veterinarians revealed serious injuries. 

X-rays revealed that besides the injuries from a reported fight with another male, baboon WF8 – better known as Van Damme – had up to 15 penetrating pellet gun wounds. Pellets had lodged in his abdomen, chest, arms and legs, with one large-calibre pellet lodged in his ear canal, according to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.

The SPCA said the fight with the other baboon left him blinded in one eye, with additional injuries to his face, arms and chest. It stated that the severity of his wounds would have necessitated an extended and painful healing period, with repeated medical procedures

“It would not have been fair or kind to keep him medicated, isolated and separated from his troop for such a long recovery time,” it said.

Van Damme was humanely put to sleep after a full veterinary assessment of the severe bite wounds sustained from a fight with another baboon a few days before. This altercation left him with injuries to his face, arms, and chest, and also blinded in one eye. (Photo: Cape of Good Hope SPCA)

“Importantly, given the loss of vision in his one eye, returning him to the troop would not be a viable or humane option as this would increase his vulnerability to welfare risks.”

The SPCA statement referred to the death of the “beloved” baboons as a “tragic loss”.

Read the full SPCA press release here.

There have been many reports of baboons being captured, their bodies riddled with pellets and other injuries. The wounds and injuries are mostly inflicted by residents who do not want the baboons on their properties and surrounding area.

Jenni Trethowan, founding member of the nonprofit Baboon Matters, emphasised that shooting baboons was illegal and could result in a hefty fine.

The Animal Protection Act No. 71 of 1962 outlaws any activity deemed animal cruelty. This includes the unnecessary shooting or harming of baboons. Infractions can result in a fine of up to R40,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.

X-rays revealed that Van Damme had up to 15 penetrating pellet gun wounds lodged in his abdomen, both legs, buttocks, chest and arms, as well as a large-calibre pellet lodged in his ear canal. (Photo: Cape of Good Hope SPCA)

“Oftentimes, [shooters are] local residents who become intolerant and frustrated by baboons being in the area,” said Trethowan. “There’s a very outdated idea that if you hurt animals, if you teach them a lesson, then they learn to stay away, and that just doesn’t have any relevance. It’s not useful [and] it doesn’t work.”

Read in Daily Maverick: 

“‘It’s like a bomb has been dropped’: Cape authorities pass the buck after well-known baboon is put to death”

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Trethowan pointed out that despite having injuries from 15 projectiles, Van Damme was not deterred from seeking easily accessible foods. 

“I think that hurting animals might actually drive them to get the human, rich foods,” she said. “When your stress levels are high, you tend to go for the quick, easy fixes. For baboons, a whole day of foraging, particularly when you’re being harassed, is quite difficult, whereas if you go to human-occupied spaces, you can grab those rich foods quickly.”


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The problem of baboons in residential areas would only be solved by human actions to reduce attractants in those areas, Trethowan continued. Instead of using pellet guns, people should change their own behaviours and secure their waste and that of their neighbours.

Van Damme with a female and his baby boy, near Smitswinkel Bay. He kept them close by that day and was very aware and cautious of a subadult male. He was a caring father. (Photo: Anya Adendorff)

Van Damme in Murdock Valley North, Simon’s Town. (Photo: Dawn Evered)

Van Damme baboon

WF8 was better known as Van Damme. (Photo: Anya Adendorff)

A very calm and relaxed Van Damme. He was a gentle baboon and non confrontational. (Photo: Anya Adendorff)

“What we urgently need from our joint task team, our decision makers, is a cohesive action plan that everybody can get behind. Because we can’t have baboons coming into the urban areas and being shot at. I think every single baboon X-rayed has got pellets in him or her,” she said.

In many instances, alpha males are being “cut down” in the prime of their lives, rather than reaching “good, old ages”, according to Trethowan. These premature deaths impact hierarchies and social structures within troops.

Read in Daily Maverick:

Monkey business (Part One): There is an ongoing urban war on the Cape Peninsula — humans versus baboons

Monkey Business (Part Two): Who is responsible for the management of baboons on the Cape Peninsula?

Monkey Business (Part Three): Cape Peninsula’s dated baboon management plan is a failure, say critics

“What it means, effectively, is that we’re leaving teenagers in charge of the family,” she said. “Then you get an even bigger breakdown in discipline, troop cohesion and so on. So, ideally, one wants to keep a stable troop for as long as possible.

“There’s no doubt… that when baboon families suffer losses, whether it’s the dominant male or the dominant female or just a sibling in the troop, they do demonstrate… grief, just as we do.

“I’m desperately sad at what is happening to our baboons on the [Cape] Peninsula. I’ve been doing this job for 30 years now, and in 30 years I don’t think it’s ever got to quite the chaotic levels it is now.” DM/MC

If you witness the shooting of a baboon with a pellet gun, please report the incident to CapeNature, Law Enforcement or the SPCA immediately. 

Important numbers:

Cape of Good Hope SPCA: 021 700 4158/9 OR 083 326 1604

Law Enforcement: 021 596 1999

CapeNature: 087 087 4021 OR 082 773 4278

NCC Baboon Hotline: 071 588 6540

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