An animal-rights activist is willing to go to court to force the authorities to return a baboon to its original troop.
Human Wildlife Solutions, the City of Cape Town’s baboon-management contractor, moved the adult male baboon, SK11, otherwise known as Kataza, from the Slangkop troop near Kommetjie to the Zwaanswyk troop in Tokai, at the end of August.
At the time, 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 animal-rights activists condemned the move as cruel, and a petition was started to fight it.
Lawyer and animal-rights activist Ryno Engelbrecht sent a letter of demand to the City, SANParks, and Cape Nature on Tuesday September 15, giving them until the end of today, Thursday September 17, to return the baboon to the Kommetjie troop.
“I will not stand idly by when an animal is suffering,” Mr Engelbrecht said. “In this instance, a wild animal has been relocated, and is currently sleeping at Pollsmoor Prison because he is not integrating into a troop that he has been forced to integrate with.
It is not normal behaviour for a wild animal to sleep in a busy parking lot or a metre away from a human. This wild animal used to forage at the seaside in Slangkop and is now raiding bins in the Tokai area in an effort to feed himself.”
The Animals Protection Act was being contravened and members of the public had resorted to stopping traffic on busy roads to help the baboon pass, he said.
“This is not only a risk for the animal, but for the general public as well.”
There needed to be better waste management in areas with baboon habitats, he said, and a City by-law on the management of baboons and other wildlife was long overdue.
People who bought homes in baboon habitats should be prepared to adapt to the reality of their surroundings and manage their waste properly, he said.
The baboon was suffering unnecessarily because of its relocation, Mr Engelbrecht argued.
Opposition to the baboon’s relocation has come from several quarters, including the Facebook group Save Scarborough Baboons and the Take Kataza Back Home petition on
Change.org which has 19 465 signatures to date.
The critics use the #BringKatazaBack hashtag on social media, and some call the relocation a “kidnapping” .
There has also been a call for people to tie yellow ribbons to their cars to show support for the campaign.
Much of the public anger has been aimed at Human Wildlife Solutions – which will be replaced by a new contractor, NCC Environmental Services, next month – as well the City’s Baboon Technical Team (BTT), which comprises representatives from the municipality, SANParks Table Mountain National Park, the navy and CapeNature.
There have also been many angry posts on the City’s Baboons of Cape Town Facebook page, where the City posted an opinion piece by Dr Andrew King, associate professor in biosciences at Swansea University in the UK, specialising in the study of animal social behaviour. He writes that the baboon’s relocation was in the animal’s best interests.
“It is true that Kataza won’t have known where he was when he was moved, but Chacma baboons regularly travel the distance he was moved (20km) in a single day – and male dispersal involves considerable time spent alone; ranging from a few hours to many months.”
People’s anthropomorphism of primates led them to make false assumptions about what was best for them, he said.
In July, Kommetjie resident Bradley Thornsen, said baboons had turned to the neighbourhood in recent months for easy pickings and had probably caused half a million rand worth of damage .But he too has called for SK11’s return to the Slangkop troop.
He opposes the idea of building a fence between baboons and humans.
“Solutions start with proper waste management: baboonproof bins are a crucial step to deter baboons from raiding in Kommetjie,” he said.
The BTT, with input from CapeNature, SANParks, UCT and the SPCA, advises the City on decisions impacting baboons living near people. It was due to meet on Wednesday to discuss a range of baboon-management issues, Kataza being one.