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PRIMATE CONTROL

Activists welcome bid to extend Urban Baboon Programme, but red-flag budget and resource problems

Activists welcome bid to extend Urban Baboon Programme, but red-flag budget and resource problems
A Cape baboon in Ceres. (Photo: Flickr)

While local activists have welcomed the City of Cape Town’s proposal to extend the Urban Baboon Programme for 18 months, some are concerned about the ability of the service provider – NCC Environmental Services – to fulfil its mandate if resources are spread too thin.

The City of Cape Town has announced its intention to extend the current Urban Baboon Programme, run by the company NCC Environmental Services, for 18 months beyond its original end date of 30 June.

The process of finalising a new Cape Peninsula Baboon Strategic Management Plan is still ongoing. The city council approved a memorandum of agreement between the parties behind the new plan – the City, SANParks and CapeNature – on 26 April, just two months before the NCC contract was to expire.

According to the City, the extension of the Urban Baboon Programme is a way to smooth the transition to the new dispensation involving the three spheres of government. 

“By extending the current contract, including rangers assisting with keeping baboons out of the urban areas as far as possible, we are giving all involved more time to adapt and plan for the new dispensation as envisioned by the draft Baboon Strategic Management Plan,” it said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Draft Cape Peninsula Baboon Strategic Management Plan slammed by activists as public comments deadline looms

The plan to extend the NCC contract is open for public comment until 18 May.

Concerns

However, while the decision to continue the programme has been welcomed by local activists, some are concerned about the NCC’s ability to fulfil its mandate if resources are spread too thin. 

There have been reports of increased baboon activity inside the urban edge in recent months. In March, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA told Maverick Citizen that it had admitted 15 chacma baboons from five different troops to its facility in the previous six months, all with human-induced injuries. Of these, 13 had to be euthanised or died owing to the severity of their injuries.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Young female baboon cruelly shot and paralysed in Constantia, leading to euthanasia

“We’ve had quite a lot of baboons killed and injured inside the urban edge, and in turn, communities complain about damage to their properties and no freedom on their own properties due to the presence of the baboons,” said Lorraine Holloway, founder of Baboons of the South.

“If you consider the current situation, there’s a lot of conflict between humans and baboons, and the baboons are [often] inside the urban edge. I think that this [NCC] service provider contract is very important, but it cannot be underfunded… it will be a waste of money if it’s underfunded, and will only lead to an increase in conflict between humans and baboons.”

The value of the current three-year contract for the Urban Baboon Programme is R39.1-million. The proposed 18-month extension has a budget of R20.1-million.

The nonprofit Cape Peninsula Civil Conservation (CPCC) supported the plan to retain the NCC as a service provider, but noted the absence of a “contingency allowance” in the extended contract. The original contract had an annual value, plus an allowance of 10% of that value available for unforeseen circumstances such as the splitting of baboon troops or dispersing males, it said.

“It is important to provide clarity on the adjustment in this extension as this may result in the community experiencing possible degradation in quality of service by the rangers as a consequence of inadequate contingency funds,” according to the CPCC.

“The contract fee offered in the extension accorded only a 5% cost increase from the original tender given in October 2020. Whilst there has been significant inflation since this time, and running costs of the programme would continue to escalate with inflation over the 18 months [from] July 2023 to December 2024, we also understand that there are… limitations on increases awarded to extension versus a new tender.”

Asked by Maverick Citizen about the concerns around the NCC’s performance and budget, Eddie Andrews, deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said any challenges experienced by the NCC were discussed and addressed at “appropriate forums… with the city”.

“These meetings happen on a regular basis and form part of our contract monitoring to ensure compliance with the conditions of the contract,” he said.

In the coming months, it will be important for the joint task team behind the new Baboon Strategic Management Plan to work alongside the NCC in addressing matters such as waste management and implementation of relevant bylaws, according to Holloway.

“I think that NCC needs to be held accountable… because it’s a lot of money… and that the [joint task team] also needs to be held responsible for their plan,” she said. DM/MC

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