Activists and Their Anthropomorphism Remain Greatest Threat to Baboons

Article excerpt

Last year I visited Cape Town as part of a project funded by UCT's programme for the enhancement of research capacity. All the reading that I had done in preparation for this and other visits to the baboons did not prepare me for what I witnessed first-hand in the Cape.

The baboon troops that I saw (and in February I visited the majority of the troops around Cape Point and urban areas) had taken baboon ingenuity and adaptability to their logical extreme.

Most have reached the point where they are uncontrollable either because they have become dominant to the people living in the area or to the monitors trying to control them and/or the topography of some of the locations made it very difficult to control them.

I place the blame on the position of the baboon activists, who have thwarted the only methods that might have prevented this situation.

Baboons, in their relations with each other, and by extension, in their relations with humans, need to know the boundaries and limits of acceptable behaviour.

Appropriate behaviour is created not just by benefits but by threats about misbehaviour; and these expectations need to be constantly reinforced.

My extensive research on food enhanced baboons (supported by studies from elsewhere) demonstrates the great "benefit" that human food has for baboons and how it changes their behaviour, diet and activity budget making it even easier for them to want to raid. Good evolutionary reasons motivate baboons once they get a taste of the higher quality, larger packages of human foods.

I have tested and witnessed many control techniques in the past 40 years. They all point to the need to make the costs higher than the benefits for the baboons. The baboons should have been aversively deterred from approaching and feeding on human food from the start and consistently so since the first signs of them doing that. How could anyone let a troop sleep on the roof of an apartment building? It is a joke to have monitors walking behind, clapping hands at this point.

I'm not even certain that major deterrent efforts will be effective for many of the troops, but it is the only option now, short of eliminating most or all of the baboons. The epitaph of these baboons will read: "Met an untimely end because activists could not face reality."

I am scandalised by the publicity campaign mounted by the activists. …