Baboons head north

A troop foraging for fruits, flowers, berries, bulbs androots beneath cork oaks in Cecilia forest above Rhodes Drive.

Baboons have crossed Rhodes Drive and two have been killed doing it.

Behavioural ecologist Professor Justin O’Riain says the gradual spilling of baboons out of the Tokai Constantia region and northwards towards Kirstenbosch was predicted in 2012 by UCT researchers.

According to Marian Nieuwoudt, mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, the last baboon on Table Mountain died in the 1970s.

“Baboons are moving back into areas of their former home range. Their natural predators are leopards and lions. The last leopard on the Cape Peninsula was shot in Hout Bay in the 1930s with the last of the Cape lions many years before that.”

Baboons had also been spotted crossing Constantia Main Road and Southern Cross Drive, raising concerns about car accidents, she said.

SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abrahams said a juvenile male baboon was hit by a car and killed on impact on Friday October 30 on Constantia Main Road.

“We then received a report, on Thursday November 19, from a traumatised driver who had hit a juvenile on Rhodes Drive. We went there but could not find it and suspect that the mother took it away,” said Ms Abrahams.Ms Nieuwoudt said a baboon troop had been sleeping in Eagles Nest wine farm and moving towards De Hel and Cecilia Forest.

“The terrain of the landscape and size of this area present some challenges to managing the troop,” she said.

Wanda Chunnett, who lives close to the Cecilia forest entrance, said more than 40 baboons, mostly females with young, had walked down their road on Sunday November 15, and they had since had three more visits from the Constantia troop, known as CT2.

Käthe Phillips, manager of Ikhaya Safari Lodge, said that for the past few days they had had daily visits from the baboons, mostly in the afternoon.

“We’re terrified they might get inside the house. Luckily, the lodge is very empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this cannot continue, and something should be done urgently,” said Ms Phillips.

Constantia runner Park Johnstone said he had seen two baboons halfway up Nursery Ravine.

The City changed its baboon-management contractor in October.

Ms Nieuwoudt said NCC Environmental Services had taken over on Thursday October 1.

The Westlake-based organisation was previously contracted from 2009 to 2012.

NCC’s contract compels it to prevent baboon troops from entering urban areas for at least 90% of daylight hours.

That was necessary to keep baboons wild and

for the safety of both baboons and people living near their habitat, Ms Nieuwoudt said.

Councillor Liz Brunette, who has two decades involvement in baboon management, said historically Constantia valley baboons fed on pine nuts.

When the pines were harvested, baboons moved into the vineyards. Their numbers had increased due to the nutritious diet.

“Where normally they have one baby per year they’re now having two.”

Vegetation in the northern part of Table Mountain National Park was more nutritious than the south, she said.

Ms Brunette said state entities were permitted to shoot two baboons a day.

Ms Nieuwoudt said baboon numbers had increased from 248 in 2006 to 445 today.

“The increase in the baboon population stems from the City’s approach in allocating resources to prevent baboons from entering urban areas as far as possible, and to minimise conflict and contact between residents and baboons,” she said.

Gordon Chunnett asked who paid for damage to property. His gutters had been ripped down by the baboons climbing on his roof, he said. Ms Phillips said baboons had caused damage to their thatch roof which they had had repaired at their own expense.

Ms Nieuwoudt said the City’s Baboon Programme started in 2009 and cost R16 million a year.

Dr Clive McDowell, who has the environmental portfolio for the Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, believes fences are the answer. He said a baboon-proof fence put up by the Zwaanswyk community in 2012 was a success.

Prof O’ Riain, of the Institute of Communities and Wildlife in Africa, said baboon-proof fences were imperative in Constantia given the many lures for baboons on the sprawling properties in the area. Another option, he added, was contraception.

He appealed to motorists to be cautious along both Rhodes Drive and Constantia Main Road as baboons had little road sense. Dog walkers in Cecilia Forest and Constantia Nek should always have their dogs under control. Cyclists and hikers should have no problems.

SANParks spokeswoman Lauren Clayton and Kirstenbosch estate manager Elton Le Roux did not respond to questions by deadline.

Feeding baboons is a criminal offence. The Baboon Hotline number is 072 588 6540.