Baboons will starve if confined to the mountains

Professor Eugene Moll, Kirstenhof

From your article (“Talks explore future of baboon management,” Bulletin, June 9) it seems everyone agrees that the management of baboons in the Table Mountain National Park is indeed conflicted.

Minister Creecy talks of re-wilding, which is a fashionable buzzword. But do she, the UCT scientists and Capetonians generally comprehend exactly what is at stake?

Chacma baboons are essentially lowland animals, that when persecuted can and do retreat to the mountains for survival. Here on the Cape Peninsula the mountain vegetation is a Cape fynbos heathland. A vegetation type evolved to thrive on soils with few plant-available nutrients. This means that nutritious food for baboons in the mountains is basically non-existent.

Our baboons have thrived locally because more than 90% of their food is from alien plants and/or raids into the urban area. To suggest we now confine them to the mountains is to consign them to starvation. Scratching out a living from the fynbos alone will be impossible for most of the individuals. And when the biodiversity fanatics realise how much damage is being done to their fynbos, there will be another outcry.

Unfortunately, we have inherited an inept baboon-management programme, with too many people pulling in too many different directions. Our local baboons are now semi-domesticated when it comes to their food sources, so any solution to the problem requires innovative re-thinking.