Baboon put down after shooting

Big Mamma, a heavily pregnant female baboon dragged Maggie to safety after the younger female was shot in Constantia. Picture: Bonita Francklin

An animal-rights activist has started a petition calling for the person responsible for shooting a baboon in Constantia to be prosecuted.

The baboon was euthanised after it was found, paralysed with a bullet wound to the chest, on a Rhodes Drive property, on Wednesday March 29.

The 4-year-old female primate, known as Maggie, was part of a Constantia troop, CT2, that roams Constantia Nek, Rhodes Drive, Southern Cross Drive and Constantia Main Road.

City-contracted baboon monitors were withdrawn from watching over the troop in April last year. Seven monitors, funded by Baboon Matters, and volunteers from Baboon Watch and the Tokai Baboon Action Group have been filling the gap since then (“Baboon Matters picks up the slack,” Bulletin, Nov 10).

According to Bonita Francklin, from Baboon Watch, the Baboon Matters monitors reported seeing baboons leave Die Hel and enter five properties on the top of Rhodes Drive.

“Our monitors rang the bell and asked for access to their properties, via intercom, to get the baboons out, but they were denied. They continued to wait outside the properties while keeping an eye on the baboons inside. There were two monitors on the gravel path behind the five Rhodes Drive properties bordering Cecilia Forest and one monitor was on Rhodes Drive. Then they heard gunshots.”

Ms Francklin said the shots were heard at 10am followed by the baboons shrieking and dogs barking.

“Straight away they knew something was wrong,” she said.

At noon, residents of one of the properties had admitted the monitors saying they had seen an injured baboon on their premises, and Maggie had been found lying paralysed in a thick bush next to an older female, said Ms Francklin.

“She had the sub-alpha female with her and she was trying to crawl while the sub-alpha female tried to drag her. We contacted Cape of Good Hope SPCA who came out. We cannot say who shot her but definitely gunshot sounds were heard.”

Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s wildlife unit supervisor Jon Friedman said he had found the injured baboon lying prone on a garden path with its back legs outstretched.

“She was trying to crawl forward using her forearms. We noticed a gash on her cheek and on her upper lip that was causing bleeding into her mouth. She had sustained an open wound beneath her right armpit that was bleeding.

“Once we had retrieved her and taken her back to our hospital for sedation and X-rays, we counted an air rifle pellet lodged in each hind-leg, one pellet having fragmented on impact with her tibia bone. We could find no entry wounds for these, so they are assumed to have been old injuries with the entry wounds having healed over.

“We noted a circular-shaped fresh entry wound on the right-hand side of her chest cavity, just beneath the armpit that was bleeding. The X-ray revealed a large bullet-like projectile lodged between her shoulder blades that we would assume caused severe nerve damage on its trajectory past her spinal cord, this likely resulting in the total paralysis of her hind section. Maggie was euthanised based on the extent of her injuries.”

Ms Francklin said it was shocking that someone had fired a gun in a residential area next to the Cecilia Forest and public space with apparently no repercussions.

“We have lost three baboons now in fatal high-velocity gun shootings in the last year. Two baboons were shot and injured by pellet guns in this part of Rhodes Drive area. This troop of baboons are shot at with pellet guns and paintball guns all the time, I’d say at least three to four times a week, especially in this area.”

She has started a petition, which so far has 1300 signatures, to stop the shooting of Western Cape baboons, saying it violates the Animals Protection Act and the Firearms Control Act.

“Human lives were put in danger and a baboon lost her life after suffering considerably,” the petition says.

SPCA spokeswoman Belinda Abraham said: “The SPCA are still in the process of completing the investigation, which will include a post-mortem by an independent veterinarian who specialises in wildlife forensics. Once we have a post-mortem report, we will be able to confirm the cause and nature of Maggie’s injuries.”

The incident also attracted comments on social media.

“The shooting of baboons by anybody for any reason is totally illegal. They need to make their bins and refuse baboon-safe, and then the baboons should have no reason to be coming into their properties,” said Sally-Anne Yoxall Selkirk.

And Debbie Tacon, a Tokai Baboon Action Group member, said the person responsible for the “heinous and cruel crime” should be jailed.

Ms Franklin says Maggie played a vital role in the troop as the baboon had started to take over the caring of weaned juveniles. Picture: Bonita Francklin.