If you travel extensively through the Western Cape, chances are you’ve spotted a baboon or two. We’ve seen them around Cape Point, on the road to Elgin, and at the Fernkloof and De Hoop Nature Reserves. And it’s most likely, especially in the Cape Peninsula, that they are Cape Chacma baboons. These primates are one of two sub-species of Chacma baboon found in South Africa (the Grey-footed Chacma is found more in the north).
You may have been warned to not go near baboons as they are intelligent and fierce creatures who have been known to snatch food from unsuspecting tourists. So, here are a three tips on what to do – or not do – when you encounter a congress of baboons.
1 Don’t disturb them in their natural habitat
Firstly, no animal likes to be disturbed while going about his or her own business. It’s common for baboons to flee at some kind of disturbance, but they can be very aggressive as well so try not to venture too close. If you come into conflict with a Chacma baboon, you risk ending up with a few bite wounds as their teeth are incredibly sharp.
2 Ensure your car doors and windows are shut
Baboons are naughty scavengers and tend to act on any opportunity to raid a space that isn’t their own. In recent years, Cape Town’s baboon population has become a problem for many urban dwellers, as discussed early this year in a National Geographic article. And there’s one big reason for it: food. So make sure you aren’t carrying any food in your hands or if any baboons start walking close to your picnic spot, pack up immediately, get into your vehicle and shut the doors and windows.
3 Don’t feed the baboons
Most Cape nature reserves and attractions will warn visitors to not feed the baboons in the area. The reason? They will associate the presence of people with the presence of food. Many people will offer baboons food for the chance to get closer to them but this only means more interference by baboons, and a greater chance of these animals of being seen as a danger and possibly killed.
While baboons pose a threat to humans, their lives are also in danger through human’s reckless behaviour. By following the rules of interaction with these creatures, you’ll help ensure safety for both us and them.
Photography Baboon Matters