LETHAL PRIMATE SHOOTING
Young female baboon cruelly shot and paralysed in Constantia, leading to euthanasia
Activists and animal welfare officials are concerned that violence against baboons may rise as residents of the Cape Peninsula face uncertainty about the pending transition to a new baboon management plan.
A juvenile female baboon was shot in an area of Constantia bordering Cecilia Forest on Wednesday, 29 March. Maggie, a four-year-old baboon from the CT2 troop, suffered severe wounds that led to her being euthanised by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
As the City of Cape Town ceased to manage the CT2 troop in 2022, private funding — largely from nonprofit Baboon Matters — has been used to employ rangers to monitor the troop. These rangers were present and available to assist residents when CT2 entered a small group of properties near Cecilia Forest on Wednesday, according to Bonita Francklin of Baboon Watch Western Cape. However, they were reportedly denied access to the properties to remove the baboons.
“Instead of opening gates… for our monitors to get in to get the baboons out, [someone] chose to pick up a gun,” said Francklin.
The rangers struggled to reach Maggie after she was shot, as an older female in the troop — Big Momma — was attempting to drag Maggie along with her, and moved onto a property to which the rangers were refused access, she continued. They were later permitted to jump the fence to retrieve the injured baboon.
When the Good Hope SPCA arrived on the scene, Maggie was prone with her back legs outstretched, trying to crawl forward using her forearms, according to Jon Friedman, wildlife supervisor for the SPCA.
“We noticed a gash on her cheek and on her upper lip that was the cause of the bleeding into her mouth. She had sustained an open wound beneath her right armpit that was bleeding,” he said.
X-rays later revealed a “large, bullet-like projectile” lodged between the the baboon’s shoulder blades, which is believed to have caused severe nerve damage on its trajectory past her spinal cord. This likely resulted in the total paralysis of her hind section, explained Friedman.
The x-rays also showed an air rifle pellet lodged in each of Maggie’s hind legs, one of which had fragmented on impact with her tibia bone. These were believed to be old injuries, as the entry wounds had healed over.
“It is always extremely disheartening and distressing to find sentient wildlife on our urban edge having been so wounded in this way,” said Friedman.
When asked who was responsible for the shooting, Friedman said that the SPCA had the eyewitness accounts of the rangers and was investigating further.
“[The properties are in a] very heavily wooded area. The back garden is Cecilia Forest,” said Francklin. “For us, it makes sense for the baboons to be in Cecilia Forest, given that it is part of SANParks, given that they are part of our heritage. They are indigenous to this Western Cape. They belong here.”
Violence against baboons
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA has admitted 15 chacma baboons from five different troops to its facility over the past 6 months, all presenting with human-induced injuries of one sort or another, according to Friedman. Of these, only two were treated and released back into their troops. The rest had to be humanely euthanised or died due to the severity of their injuries.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape of Good Hope SPCA ‘sickened’ after second wounded baboon is euthanised in a week
“Unfortunately, the pattern of violence against baboons is nothing new to us at the SPCA. We routinely attend to baboons (of all ages) who have been shot, attacked by dogs, hit by speeding motor vehicles, ensnared and poisoned,” he said. “We anticipate an increase in the number of cases we see however as residents across the peninsula ‘run out of patience’ awaiting a solution by the authorities, and decide to take matters into their own hands, as in the case of this latest shooting.”
The current plan for managing the baboons — the Urban Baboon Programme, run by NCC Environmental Services — is due to come to an end on 30 June. The new draft Cape Peninsula Baboon Strategic Management Plan, produced by a joint task team representing SANParks, CapeNature and the City of Cape Town, is still being finalised.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Draft Cape Peninsula Baboon Strategic Management Plan slammed by activists as public comments deadline looms
Jenni Trethowan, founder of Baboon Matters, emphasised that there was no transition plan in place for the period after 30 June, and no planned extension of the City of Cape Town’s contract with NCC Environmental Services.
“The city cannot just extend the current contract as it is because the service provider is struggling. Since this contract… was signed off, there’s been radical increases in petrol prices, cost of living prices. They are struggling at the moment and because the city announced that the project was ending, they’ve been losing staff,” said Trethowan.
“So, it can’t just be an extension of the existing contract. It needs to be brought in line so that the project can run effectively and efficiently.”
Without an effective transition plan in place at the end of June, Trethowan predicts that baboons will enter urban areas with more frequency, and more violence will be committed against these animals.
“When that sort of uncontrolled, chaotic, complex situation arises, then there is elevated risks to everyone,” she warned.
“There is way more chance of a resident of these areas being hit by a bullet or a pellet than ever having a baboon tooth touch them… High-calibre weapons are being fired at these animals… If I was a resident in that beautiful, beautiful part of Cape Town, and I knew my neighbours were firing, I would be very worried.” DM/MC
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Anyone wishing to support the work of the SPCA can find details here.