Drunken baboons on a rampage. No solution in sight..
Drunk baboons plague Cape Town’s exclusive suburbs
The sun is setting over South Africa’s oldest vineyard and the last of the wine-tasting tourists are climbing onto their buses. But one large family group has no intention of leaving – and there is little the management can do about it.
By Jane Flanagan in Cape Town
Groot Constantia, in the heart of Cape Town’s wine country, can deal with inebriated holidaymakers – but it is invading baboons which have developed a taste for its grapes that the wine makers are struggling with.
Each day, dozens of Cape Baboons gather to strip the ancient vines – the sauvignon blanc grapes are a particular favourite – before heading into the mountains to sleep. A few, who sample fallen fruit that has fermented in the sun, pass out and don’t make it home.
“They are not just eating our grapes, they are raiding our kitchens and ripping the thatch off the roofs. They are becoming increasingly bold and destructive,” said Jean Naude, general manager at the vineyard, which is celebrating its 325th birthday this year. Guards banging sticks and waving plastic snakes have been deployed with only limited success, and not even a blast of a vuvuzela, the plastic horn made famous at the World Cup, seems to frighten them.
It is not just the vineyards in South Africa which are under siege, however, but also the exclusive neighbouring suburb of Constantia, home to famous residents including Earl Spencer, Wilbur Smith and Nelson Mandela.
Crisis meetings between animal welfare groups and traumatised locals are struggling to find a workable solution.
“Where there’s a mountain, there’s a baboon,” said Justin O’Riain of the Baboon Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. “As we take up more and more of their land, the conflict increases.”
The baboons lived in the mountains of Cape Town long before humans took up residence, but development has forced the unlikely neighbours into increasingly closer contact.
Before laws afforded baboons a protected status a decade ago, troublesome animals were regularly killed or maimed by home owners and farmers. Now around 20 full-time “baboon monitors” are employed to protect them and guide them away from residential areas. It has proved mission impossible. Last week, a 12 year old boy was left traumatised after confronting a troop who had broken into his family home.
Hearing noises from the kitchen, he went to investigate and found the beasts ransacking cupboards. When the child fled upstairs to find his babysitter, three males gave chase and surrounded him as he made a tearful phone call to his mother, while the animals pelted him with fruit.
“When he called me he was terrified. They had him surrounded,” said the Constantia housewife, who did not wish to be identified.
Chickens, geese, peacocks and even a Great Dane dog have been killed in recent weeks by the marauding baboons – the males have huge and terrifying canine teeth. Roof tiles, electric fences, orchards and vegetables gardens have been trashed.
“Lunch parties in the garden are now just impossible,” a homeowner complained. “It is so unrelaxing. Rather than chatting over our meal, we are looking over our shoulders and bolting the food as quickly as we can before it is stolen. We can’t even leave a window open in summer. We are under siege.”
In a concession to despairing residents, wildlife authorities have begun collaring baboons identified as “troublesome” and imposed a strict “three strikes” policy whereby animals which repeatedly break into homes are humanely destroyed.
Fourteen year-old William, a large male known officially as GOB03, who had terrorised the coastal suburb of Scarborough for as long as anyone can remember, was the first to fall foul of this controversial rule.
His death last month was greeted with outrage and jubilation in equal measure and dominated the letters pages of the local newspapers for weeks.
Meanwhile, For Sale signs are sprouting up in suburbs with baboon populations. Families which have lived in the same house for generations are giving up, moving away to get away from their animal tormentors.
Baboons learn to listen for cars central locking tweet before breaking in
Baboons in Cape Town have learned to listen out for the tweet of a car’s remote central locking before deciding whether to break in to search for food, according to the local authorities.
Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg
Published: 8:57AM BST 23 Jul 2010
The highly intelligent animals lie in wait as tourists get out of their car to gaze at the view from Cape Peninsula – the thin finger of land in the south westernmost corner of South Africa that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Then, if they haven’t heard the telltale “tweet” of the locking system, they sneak over and open the car door to plunder its contents.
So many picnics have now been lost to the simian raiders that the local authorities are pushing the government to commission an official baboon warning road sign as they have done for hippos, elephants, warthogs and kudus.
Theuns Vivian, Cape Town’s Destination Development Manager, said humans and baboons would get along fine provided they were equally aware of each other.
“People stop their vehicles, and the vehicles get damaged,” he said.
“Or they get out of their vehicles, and these baboons are highly intelligent animals. They’re waiting for the sound of the car alarm.
“If they don’t hear the ‘tweet’ they make for the door.
“So the tourists get out of the vehicle, they stand amazed at the vista and the view, and the baboons go for the door, and say: ‘well, that door’s not locked’.
“They are so intelligent: they wait for the noise of the alarm system. So we need to educate our tourists.”
He is also planning to erect “do and don’t” signs around the Mother City warning visitors about the dangers of getting too close to the creatures.
“These are dangerous animals, and you still have people trying to pose for a photograph next to a baboon with fangs the size of a cheetah’s,” he said.
“We value our baboons, and we value our tourists. We’d like to have a nice symbiosis.”
Environmentalists say the territory available to baboons on the peninsula has shrunk with the expansion of city, meaning the primates are regularly spotted in built-up areas.
Earlier this month, a 14-year-old baboon who had been named William by residents was executed by lethal injection after he was caught repeatedly housebreaking and terrorising humans.