Activist takes baboon’s case to court

Kataza supporters could turn to the court in a final attempt toget him home.

The Chacma baboon, SK11, better known as Kataza, is going to have its day in court, after animal-rights activist Ryno Engelbrecht made good on his threat to sue those responsible for relocating the primate.

Mr Engelbrecht has asked the Western Cape High Court to review the decision by the City’s Baboon Technical Team to relocate the baboon from Kommetjie to Tokai.

City of Cape Town, SANParks, The Western Cape Conservation Board, Table Mountain National Park, The South African Navy and Human Wildlife Solutions are cited as respondents in papers filed by his lawyers on Friday October 2.

The motion seeks to have the baboon returned to the Kommetjie troop and its ear tags and GPS tracking collar removed.

Mr Engelbrecht argues that the City is legally bound to act as a caretaker of the baboons, and other wildlife, and should make decisions in the best interests of the animals. He feels that isn’t happening.

Animals in national parks, he says, are public assets held in trust by the state, for the benefit of present and future generations.

Kay Montgommery, of the Baboon Technical Team, declined to comment on the latest developments, saying the matter was now sub judice.

Marian Nieuwoudt, the mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said: “We are still studying the content of the application and cannot comment at this point in time.”

Primatologist Paul Jacobus Venter, of the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Volunteer Centre, told a baboon-stakeholders meeting, held over Zoom last month, there were more humane ways to track the baboon than the bulky GPS collar, which was inappropriate for primates and more suitable for buffaloes and lions.

The identification ear tags were also unnecessary and could cause sound-related discomfort especially with Cape Town’s wind, he said.

Mr Venter has been rehabilitating Chacma baboons and monkeys for 27 years. He spent a week following Kataza to do some research on this case. He told the Zoom meeting that the City had done everything possible and he praised it for the amount of money and effort spent looking after the baboons.

The City’s baboon-management contractor, Human Wildlife Solutions, had done its best as had the activists, but a failure to find common ground wasn’t helping the animal, he said.

To the activists, he said: “Guys, you are doing great. Don’t think about your own egos – think about that animal.”

He had seen activists interfering with the animal, he said.

Animal-management practices for the Cape Town baboons needed revision, he said, recommending, among other things, steel baboon-proof bins and security gates for Kommetjie homes.

Felicity Purchase, a Fish Hoek ward councillor, and Ms Montgommery chaired the two-hour meeting which had a chat facility where the public could comment.

Ms Purchase said integration into new troops could take up to a few months but that interference from the public, especially feeding the baboon, was only going to hamper that.

During the meeting Ms Purchase was called ‘’speciest’’ by one of the responders on the chat for referring to the baboon as SK11 instead of Kataza, and for calling the animal “it” rather than “him”.