Seven baboons were killed after permits were granted to two Constantia farmers who lost crops following baboon raids. Conservation authorities and experts have warned that there are deeper complexities at play in this matter.
Speaking to News24, director of the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa, Professor Justin O’Riain, said that many Cape Town vineyards have invested huge sums of money into game fencing and other aversive conditions over the years to prevent baboons from damaging their crops and infrastructure.
“Unfortunately, baboons are the most artful of all dodgers and successfully overcome most deterrents,” he said.
A spokesperson for CapeNature, the main conservation authority of the Western Cape, said that two permits were granted to Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting farms as a last resort.
These two permits are valid from October 2017 to October 2018, and their use has seen seven baboons killed. CapeNature emphasised that these permits are not to be confused with recreational hunting permits, and that many extensive evaluation procedures took place before they were granted.
“The applicants were able to prove that they have implemented multiple non-lethal mitigation measures over a number of years to try and prevent the continued damage to vineyards and infrastructure without success, and experienced extensive losses,” the authority said.
According to O’Riain there is a level of determent that comes with the shooting of a baboon – when a baboon is shot, other baboons in the area hear the gunshot and are frightened. Baboons are smart, however, and learn to avoid a particular hunter. “When the hunter is absent they will return for the rich pickings,” he said.
The natural predators of baboons include Nile crocodiles, lions, spotted and striped hyenas, leopards and cheetahs – none of which are present in the Cape Peninsula. As a result of this, the baboon population in the Tokai region has grown from approximately 180 to 260 baboons in the past five years.
In some provinces, like Mpumalanga, farmers are not required to employ non-lethal methods to deter baboons, which are classified as vermin. In contrast, the City of Cape Town has invested approximately R12-million in non-lethal methods of deterring baboons from raiding properties.
Many vineyard farmers use deterrents such as paintball guns.
As baboons are highly intelligent, farmers noted that baboons have adapted to this by changing their raiding schedule – instead of coming out at night to raid, they may begin in the early hours of the morning.