Kataza, a southern chacma baboon was forcibly removed from the Slangkop troop, his family, in Kommetjie approximately two weeks ago. He was dropped off more than  twenty kilometres away on the urban edge of Tokai, in the Western Cape of South Africa.

The baboon monitors who had worked closely with conservationists, were replaced in 2012 by Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS). Their methods of management have included removals and the use of pain-inducing paint ball guns as a deterrent. Dame Jane Goodall, a world renowned primatologist has been outspoken and critical of “unnecessarily hostile tactics”[1].  According to recent reports[2], HWS  have now lost their annual fourteen million rand baboon management contract with the City of Cape Town. 

During Kataza’s absence from the Slangkop troop, the alpha male George has killed at least one of Kataza’s offspring.  According to Dr Andrew King, a professor at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, George “is adopting a clever evolutionary strategy, with no infants to care for, the infants’ mother stops lactation and becomes ready to conceive”[3]. Kataza, as we know, did not leave the troop of his own accord, he was “dispersed of”.

Kataza, in the meanwhile has been refused veterinary assessment from the wildlife division of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA (CGHSPCA) even though he is showing signs of exhaustion, distress and confusion as he tries in vain to return to his troop in Kommetjie.

The Wildlife Animal Protection Forum South Africa (WAPFSA) consists of conservation and wildlife protection organisations, these include experts from the scientific, conservation, legal, welfare, animal rights, tourism, social justice and public advocacy sectors. The members of WAPFSA would like to clarify that the enormous public concern about the pitiless, forced removal and relocation of Kataza, has become the tipping point for many conservationists and concerned citizens. Not only are they worried about the well-being of this individual baboon but he has become a symbol of all that is wrong with the callous style in which the baboons of the Western Cape are treated by the authorities.   

The planet’s wildlife is in a precipitous decline, Sir David Attenborough has stated this weekend that children born today will witness the sixth mass extinction[4].  Our extractive and unempathetic relationship with nature needs to be urgently readdressed. Baboons play a crucial role in preserving the biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom and many residents of the Western Cape feel fortunate to be able to enjoy having baboons as neighbours. The City of Cape Town though, and some residents,  seem to have lost sight of the fact that many homes are in fact situated on the edges of nature reserves and the rights of baboons should therefore be protected. There is unanimous agreement on all sides of the debate, that irresponsible waste management, both household and municipal is one of the single biggest root causes of human/baboon conflict.

Shirley Strum, a primatologist has stated that “It is garbage and the humans’ food in it, that attracts baboons and is the source of much conflict between people and the animals… it is important to find ways to convince people to dispose of their refuse properly and to use the baboon-proof bins correctly… It needs a serious PR campaign and then some enforcement and penalties to motivate people to act right… it would be a shame if they [baboons] died out because of bad human behaviour.” 

A recent paper in Science: “Engage with animal welfare in conservation[5]”, argues that conservationists should be concerned not only about the persistence of animal species and populations but about the welfare of individual animals. 

Professor David Bilchitz of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional Public and Human Rights and International Law has also argued that, in order to save a species from extinction, we need an “integrative approach[6]”, which recognises the intrinsic value and promotes the respect for the individual non-human animal. 

Jenni Trethowan, the founder of Baboon Matters, has spent thirty years working with baboons and she has developed non-lethal management techniques with the guidance of primatologists Dave Gaynor and Ruth Kansky. It has been shown that using the intimate knowledge gained by studying the individual behaviours of the troop and traditional herding techniques will achieve the desired goal of a harmonious co-existence, when baboons encroach with humans.

WAPFSA has engaged with Minister Bredell and he has confirmed that the Ministry of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and Cape Nature will be organising a workshop to engage in discussions on scientific research and animal protection principles that will underpin the protocols for the treatment of baboons and their co-existence with their human counterparts going forward. WAPFSA believes that through collaboration, transparency, dialogue, best science and a more humane, ethical and respectful approach both humans and baboons will benefit. 

The current unacceptable and disruptive treatment of Kataza demands immediate intervention. Lawyers acting for Baboon Matters have requested an emergency compassionate solution for Kataza in order to save his life. 

Written by Stefania Falcon on behalf of WAPFSA





[5] https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6504/629

[6] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2942112

Image Credit: Pete Oxford

© 2020 WAPFSA. All rights reserved