Baboon battle brewing at Constantia Uitsig

On Sunday the only sign of baboons at Constantia Uitsig were wire ones on thatched roofs but a troop had visited earlier in the day.

There have been reports of growing conflict between baboons and humans at Constantia Uitsig.

The baboons in Tokai and Nova Constantia are caught between food outlets and unmanaged waste, according to wildlife experts.

Constantia wildlife vet Dr Hamish Currie says he had lunch at the heritage market at Constantia Uitsig on Saturday July 24 and baboons were harassing diners. The baboons startled children and adults alike as they tipped over dustbins, he says.

Wildlife researcher, Esme Beamish said the issues at Uitsig had started in July and August after the City’s baboon-management contractors were no longer permitted to use paintball markers – a decision that has since been reversed.

Uitsig had become a corridor for baboons to move into urban areas, she said.

Ms Beamish, of UCT’s department of biological sciences, has worked in baboon management for 15 years. According to her, having baboons, humans and food so close to one another is a dangerous mix because baboons become more brazen and aggressive each time they grab some food and that behaviour puts the entire troop at risk.

According to Dr Currie, the Tokai/Constantia troops account for the largest number of baboons on the Cape Peninsula and they roost within walking distance of Constantia Uitsig.

Bad waste management was the root cause of human-baboon conflicts that led to baboons being euthanised, he said.

“It is up to the public to exercise good waste management to prevent this avoidable loss of life of our precious wildlife,” said Dr Currie.

Ila Stowe, Uitsig’s Bike Park administrator, said that in their six years at Uitsig they had seen many baboons come and go from the farm, situated between Constantiaberg’s lower slopes and Orpen Road. Their presence was expected and normal, she said.

On Sunday August 15, the only sign of baboons at Uitsig were wire ones on thatched roofs, but Lauren Basson, the manager of Four & Twenty, said she had arrived earlier that morning to find rubbish strewn behind the restaurant after baboons had broken chains they had fitted holding the bin lids closed.

Marian Nieuwoudt, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, said NCC Environmental Services, the City’s baboon-management contractor, knew of two baboon encounters at Constantia Uitsig involving children. NCC had also had reports of food being grabbed from patrons, from tables and from out of shops.

Dr Currie said he had been told by NCC that baboon monitors were not allowed at Uitsig because it was private property. He said he found that unacceptable.

Ms Nieuwoudt said NCC had informed Uitsig’s owners that problems with baboons would escalate if restaurants and bins were not baboon proofed and NCC had tried unsuccessfully to meet with them since October to discuss that.

Ms Nieuwoudt said owners of private properties were responsible for problem animals and for baboon proofing their land. The situation at Uitsig was undermining NCC’s efforts to keep baboons out of the urban area.

Since Saturday, the Bulletin repeatedly phoned and emailed John Eachus and Ralph Baumgarten from Uitsig management, but they did not respond. Speaking on behalf of tenants, Nest, Four & Twenty, Sushi Box and Kristen’s Kick Ass Ice Cream, Kristen Buttress, the managing director of Kristen’s Kick Ass Ice Cream, said they were working together to find a solution that would create a safe environment for both customers and animals.

A water pistol at one of the restaurants in the heritage market strip at Uitsig.
Constantia Uitsig has signs showing information on the baboons and that they are a part of the environment.
On Friday August 14, a single, untagged baboon scratched a child after grabbing him, spinning him around and taking his ice cream.