After much debate between various stakeholders regarding the proposed Baboon Management programme, the Betty's Bay Baboon Action Group (BBBAG) and Renee Bish of the BBRA Conservation/Baboon portfolio submitted a proposal for Bettys Bay to the Overstrand Municipality. It is gratifying to have a collaborative relationship with the OM to navigate a way forward. A top baboon scientist working with the City of Cape Town is on public record as saying that the current baboon management protocols in operation elsewhere, are impractical in Betty's Bay, largely due to the dramatic topography here. For Betty's Bay they recommend a co-existence approach.
Here is the BBBAG/BBRA proposal:
Betty's Bay Baboon Action Group Proposal for Baboon Management
As submitted to the Overstrand Municipality
15th October, 2020
Betty's Bay is a village 13 kms in length, sandwiched in a thin strip of low-lying, often waterlogged, terrain between the ocean and the Hottentot Holland Mountain range. It is incorporated into the UNESCO designated Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.
The village is divided into neighbourhoods along its length, each with varying degrees of baboon interactions.
Betty's Bay is growing quickly both as existing homeowners make a permanent move here as well as new buyers moving in from a much more urbanized life style. We maintain that as custodians of the Biosphere we are all bound in the responsibility of its wellbeing. The ethos of the Biosphere is to maintain biodiversity in a sustainable manner and to promote the co-existence of Man and wildlife. There is both a civic and a private duty to uphold these values.
We, in Betty's Bay, have been badly let down by the Overstrand Municipality with regard to adequate and responsible waste management, both household and municipal. For several years we have listened to empty promises to resolve the most pressing issues. In the meantime our baboon troop has learned the potential reward of a black plastic rubbish bag and has begun to target them more and more determinedly. Covid-19 lockdown did not help the human/baboon conflict situation with many more residents staying for lengthy periods and generating much more non baboon-compliant refuse.
We find ourselves in a situation where, to live in harmony with our wildlife, baboons in particular, we require some kind of monitoring. We recognize the need for a certain kind of baboon monitoring style.
What are the issues with the current regime?
- There are three main issues with the current management protocols proposed for Betty's Bay.
- Firstly the ability to kill a baboon as a management tool.
- Secondly, deliberately inflicting pain on any of our wildlife, including baboons, through the use of paint balls, is not acceptable to the community at large nor is it appropriate to do so within a Biosphere Reserve.
- Thirdly baboons should not be actively chased.
- The use of a Virtual Fence has been often discussed and while appropriate and useful in certain circumstances it has little chance of being successfully deployed in our village bearing in mind the dramatic topography involved. We further believe that it cannot be successful without being aggressively backed up by paint balls, disturbing other wildlife, trampling delicate fynbos vegetation affecting other baboon troops behind the escarpment or affecting the core zone of the Biosphere, all of which are unacceptable. We therefore advocate a precautionary principle.
- HWS has a relatively high turnover of monitor staff. They act in a militaristic fashion and their sheer presence shatters an otherwise idyllic mindset. Most residents, we believe, do not support this intrusion.
What is our proposal?
- We are aiming for a ‘Shepherd not Shoot’ approach, where, we believe, that if the situation is approached calmly it will be a win/win for baboons, residents, HWS and the Overstrand Municipality. Our baboons are fully habituated to people and have been for decades. Most days they spend time within the urban edge. After lengthy observation we estimate that greater than 80% of their time spent in the village is spent at rest, grooming or naturally foraging on the ample fynbos biome between dwellings. Opportunistically they source human-derived food from supplementary bird feeding, inappropriately disposed of rubbish and through entering houses to steal food.
- Baboons should be watched, but left alone, while naturally foraging whether one side or the other of the urban edge.
- When within the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve they are to be left alone. No monitors shall be allowed to follow them beyond the urban edge.
- Baboons should be discouraged from entering homes or damaging property.
How do we propose this?
- We currently have 3 adult males in the troop. Each male should have a dedicated monitor following him closely. Plus at least two others. 5 per shift.
- By consequence the females will almost invariably be in close proximity to at least one of the males.
- The monitors should be ‘career’ monitors.
- They should be trained by Baboon Matters.
- Our intention is that the monitors become eyes and ears within the community in a positive role.
- Initially a rotor system of residents will chaperone the monitors to interface between them and residents both to help introduce them as well as to deflect hostility towards them. This could be a two month introductory phase or as necessary.
- Monitors will give advance warning of approaching baboons using whistles. The mere presence of monitors will greatly help deter any would be aggression from residents towards baboons. Eg: pellet guns etc.
- Monitors will assist with slowing of traffic as and when the baboons intend to cross the R44.
- Each male-following monitor will receive a company smart phone at the start of the working day which he will return at the end for the sake of his privacy.
- On the phone will be installed an app similar to that used by a mother tracking her daughter’s whereabouts for example. Community members will be the ‘mothers’ and the monitors the ‘daughters’. In real time we can consult the same app installed on our phones to know where each of the 3 male-following monitors are. Tracking the troops movements by residents in real time will give them a very accurate insight as to whether or not it is safe to open their houses up for example. In effect we are ‘collaring’ the monitors and not the baboons, rendering collars unnecessary. Notwithstanding that the community WhatsApp baboon alert groups continue to play an active and vital role.
- We feel that none of us, monitors included, should know the exact whereabouts of sleep sites. Leaking of this information poses a real and present danger of hunting parties, using dogs, to kill baboons for consumption.
- Some residents will not want monitors onto their properties. Others will be glad for the extra assistance. A green sticker or a red sticker will be made available to apply to a resident’s gate or front door. Green for ‘happy the monitor enters the property’ (particularly meant in the case that no one is home, otherwise the whistle alerts should be sufficient warning), red for ‘no entry’.
- At green-tagged houses the monitors will be able to help persuade a baboon, one on one, not to enter or cause damage. Red tagged and the onus is on the owner to be fully baboon-compliant. This system however in no way relinquishes the green-tagged owner from being baboon-compliant, nor is it a license to continue feeding birds or to practice inadequate waste disposal.
- Monitors would be ‘deputized’ by the municipality with powers of law enforcement ONLY with regard to non-compliant waste management and supplementary bird/animal feeding. They would have 3 blocks of pre-printed official forms. A first ‘offence, second and third offence form. Having to issue a third offence would result in a fine. Each offence would be backed up by photographic evidence from the company-issued smart phones.
- By shepherding and not chasing it will be found that the baboon situation becomes much calmer and baboons may well spend less time in the village if they are allowed enough undisturbed rest, feeding and social time during the day. Once obviously enroute ‘home’ to a sleep site the troop should be left alone. Baboons delay in returning if they consider they are being followed and are at their most stressed. By approximating where they spend the night the following morning monitor shift will know where to begin their day waiting for the baboons to come down.
- Complaining about baboon incursions etc. is too easy at present and very often exaggerated through fear and misunderstanding of baboon behaviour by the complainer. A classic example would be “He was very aggressive and bared his teeth at me” which in reality would be the submissive ‘fear grimace’ gesture. We would like all complaints formalized via a preconceived form signed as an affidavit with the ability to perform a follow-up check as to the accuracy of the complaint.
- The entire concept relies on community buy-in with regard to a more baboon tolerant/compliant attitude. It also requires re-enforcement from the municipality to that effect and positive action to reduce problem situations.
- In essence baboons should be accompanied, by monitors who like and care for them and who will do their best to keep them out of trouble.