Bring Kataza back

Kommetjie residents have started a petition to bring Kataza, a male baboon, that was relocated to Tokai, back to his troop. Picture: Baboon Matters/Facebook

The relocation of a baboon
from Kommetjie to Tokai
has drawn a public backlash,
but scientists say it’s standard practice and that it’s people’s desire to
treat baboons like pets that poses
the real danger to the primates.
Human Wildlife Solutions, the City of Cape Town’s
baboon-management contractor,
relocated the baboon, called
Kataza or SK11, from the Slangkop troop in Kommetjie to the
Zwaanswyk troop in Tokai on Wednesday August 26. 

A petition calling for the baboon
to be returned to Slangkop troop
has since drawn 5 500 signatures.

Julia Wood, from the City’s
environmental management
department, said the baboon had
been moved because it had tried
to form a splinter group with seven
females that would have led to
in-breeding.
But the move prompted Kommetjie resident Odette Peiser to
start the petition. 

She claimed
the move broke up a family unit
and could cause conflict between
the baboon and humans that
could lead to the creature being
killed.

She called on Marian Nieuwoudt, the
mayoral committee member for spatial
planning and environment, to stop the
“continued persecution of baboons at
the behest of a contractor that is failing
in having the interests of the people and
the animals at heart”.
 
Ms Nieuwoudt said baboon-human
conflict was dangerous and needed to
be prevented and that the City’s baboon
management was based on scientific
research. 
“Nobody wants to harm the baboons,
but they are very dangerous animals, and
once they have learned and prefer to
locate to urban areas and we cannot get
them back to stay in their natural habitat, we have no choice but to take them
away. It is really a management decision
for the greater good for animals and
humans.”
While people had deep appreciation
for the “majestic” animals, anthropomorphising them, that is attributing
human characteristics to them, caused
them harm in the long run, she said. 
“Once we personalise them by giving them names, lure, accommodate or
entice them to promote human-baboon
interaction, this interference leads to a
change in their behaviour, and, at the
end, a problem animal.” 
She added: “They are wild animals,
and we must not treat them as pets”.
Ms Wood said an animal-rights activist
had tried to stop rangers capturing an
injured baboon on Monday. The baboon
had subsequently been captured and
euthanised because it had had a broken
femur.
Professor Justin O’Riain, from UCT, is
the director of the Institute for Communities and Wildlife (iCWild). 
He said there
was nothing unusual about moving wild
animals to a new area.
“It is called metapopulation management, and it is done primarily to ensure
the genetic health of geographically isolated sub-populations. Imagine if every
time a cheetah was relocated there was an
uproar like this,” he said. 
“While it is stressful for a rhino to be
captured and moved to a new reserve, if
that move brings fresh genes to a population, then the bigger goal is realised.” 
Animal-rights activists had been
“illegally tracking and pursuing” SK11
since Saturday to photograph his movements, he said.
“SK11 was sighted by baboon rangers
– who do have a permit – with several
female baboons in the Tokai troop on
Sunday, August 31,” he said.
Most animal-rights activists, he said, held animal rights to be equal to human
rights with a focus on individual animals
and not the species or the environment. 
“The animal-rights groups condemn
euthanasia as a scientific wildlife management tool, even when large raiding
male baboons are terrorising families in
baboon-affected suburbs.” 
It was recognised internationally, he
said, that the philosophy of animal rights
was “incompatible with science-based conservation and management of wildlife”. 
In a 2012 open letter to the Cape
Times, following her visit to Cape Town
the year before, Dr Shirley C. Strum,
professor of biological anthropology at
the University of California, San Diego,
said she was “scandalised” by the publicity
campaign mounted by activists whom she
accused of thwarting appropriate methods of deterrence.
“The epitaph of these baboons will
read: ‘Met an untimely end because activists could not face reality’… 
The future of
the Cape baboons is being endangered
by the very people shouting the loudest
against the only appropriate methods we
have now. 
If deterrence had been used
successfully earlier, there would be no
need to kill any baboons today.” 
She cared about baboons as much as
the activists did but would sacrifice some
to save the whole if that is what it took,she wrote. 
Professor O’ Riain meanwhile stands by his suggestion that a baboon-proof fence, such as the one
installed eight years ago by Zwaanswyk residents,
can end much of the conflict between baboons and
humans in Kommetjie. 
“Only the Kommetjie community can end this
cycle by choosing to fence the Slangkop troop into
the status of good neighbours,” he said.