George Municipality is sensitive to the problems our residents experience because of the baboon population in the northern areas of town, but it is also important that all stakeholders should work together to find solutions to this complex situation. Residents need to learn to co-exist with the baboons, as we as humans have encroached on the natural habitat of the primates.
According to primatologist Dave Gaynor, baboons have been in the fynbos ecosystem for millions of years and have been a major population in terms of biomass. He noted in an article on Showme Plettenberg Bay, “One can confidently say that if they are removed, it is 100 percent sure to affect the fynbos. Baboons play a significant role in plant dispersal and reproduction”. The primates also keep scorpions, snakes and rats out of the areas that they roam.
Research done in Pringle Bay by Erin Guth in 2005 showed exactly that. It is clear that baboons play an important role in the ecosystem and that we need them to forage in the fynbos. However, the residential areas and villages can be a tempting alternative with the possibility of high-calorie foods. For example, just half a loaf of brown bread is equal to four hours of foraging in the fynbos for a female baboon, making up her daily nutritional supplement.
There is no option but to deter them as much as possible, because baboons will not be captured, relocated, or put down unless there is reasonable cause for this. Translocations and elimination of problem animals have sometimes yielded satisfying short-term results but rarely solved the problem. This will still not solve any problem as a male leader will just be replaced by another rival.
Further, aggressive responses to problem animals (i.e. shooting, threatening) often result in transferring the problem to neighbours. It has also been reported to increase aggressive behaviours from wildlife towards humans (and between humans), worsening the situation.
It is therefore of vital importance that all involved must keep the baboons from consuming human food by denying them access to refuse and using baboon-proof bins. Residents can even go further and baboon-proof their homes so they don’t raid fridges. When it comes to gardens, preserve the fynbos and cage as far as possible from vegetable gardens and fruit trees. And never feed the baboons directly.
According to Dr Chloe Guerbois, Nelson Mandela University, Sustainability Research Unit, who led a team of researchers in gaining some insights for the development of appropriate management options for human-baboon conflicts in George. She said although the experience of the negative impact by some residents should not be underplayed, the baboon situation in George is not yet as bad as in other towns. Guerbois also warns that it is now the time to act as the costs could still be kept low both for humans and baboons.
Dr Guerbois’ research found that the appointment of three wildlife monitors by the George Municipality in September 2015 certainly resulted in reducing the number of baboon incidents in 2016.
Up to 60 residents from Denneoord and Eden were interviewed and almost 90% of these people have experienced baboon encounters near their residence at least once. The baboons were mostly rummaging through refuse bags, searching for food, and passing through private property. Refuse bags were the primary target and fruit trees.
Dr. Guerbois’s recommendation is proactive collaborative solutions such as improved waste management and adapted farming and gardening practices at the edge of the urban areas for long-term options to ease human-baboon co-existence.
“The baboon issue is a real social dilemma and not (only) a financial one as it requires both personal and cooperative engagements for sometimes intangible, indirect, or delayed benefits. It is a deep transformation process which does not only apply to the baboon issue but to the global climate and biodiversity crisis,” Guerbois said.
George Municipality and CapeNature are in regular discussion with all stakeholders regarding baboon management, especially in mountainous areas or in the northern parts of George where these animals tend to raid properties for food. George Municipality Law Enforcement Officers patrol the various troops in the Blanco, Denneoord, Genevafontein, Saasveld, Victoria Bay, and Wilderness areas.
Amended Refuse Collection Times for affected areas in Blanco, Denneoord, Genevafontein, Saasveld, Victoria Bay and Wilderness
As a new measure to assist residents in the Blanco, Denneoord, Genevafontein, Saasveld, Victoria Bay and Wilderness areas who are affected by baboons, arrangements have been put in place to ensure that refuse removal will take place first in these areas, on their SPECIFIC REMOVAL DAYS from Monday to Friday.
Mayor Leon van Wyk said: “We as a Municipality set out the timelines with start and end time commitments for refuse collection that we will strive to meet 95% of the time and make sure that crews understand this. The refuse trucks will also use the most optimal routes to follow in the suburbs so that the baboons do not get the message of delays before the public receives them.”
For this to work, residents of these areas are requested to PLEASE put their sealed refuse bags out between 07h00 and 08h00 (the time is dependent on whether residents have to leave their premises or are staying at home. If the residents are at home, they can put the refuse out by 07h30, if not, and they must leave earlier, they can put it out by 07h00 ONLY ON their day of collection.
George Municipal refuse collection takes place within scheduled times and the change of routes within the highlighted areas already starts at 08h00 on the SPECIFIED REFUSE REMOVAL DAY. The measures taken will be subject to operational matters and we will endeavour to meet our commitment to sustainable, efficient services.
REFUSE REMOVAL DAYS
MONDAY: Blanco, Victoria Bay
THURSDAY: Wilderness Heights
What else can you do?
Living and holidaying in the natural surroundings of the Garden Route means sharing space with wildlife such as baboons and monkeys. When winter sets in and natural food sources become scarcer, baboons and monkeys are more likely to forage in residential areas.
Please review the standard tips around the handling of refuse, food and other tips.
While George Municipality and CapeNature assist with some aspects of baboon management, residents and visitors can assist greatly by reducing access to potential food sources:
- Keep your dustbins closed, sliding doors bolted and windows and doors shut, especially when leaving the house and/or when troops are in the vicinity.
- If you want to keep windows open, install burglar bars with gaps smaller than 8 cm.
- Do not leave pet food outside.
- Do not feed wild birds and animals on the property, as this often attracts baboons.
- Do not plant fruit trees, or vegetable gardens or make compost heaps unless they can be caged in or surrounded by electric fencing.
For mitigating measures to be most effective, all residents in baboon-visited neighbourhoods should make a concerted effort to ensure there is no easy access to food – as baboons are more likely to move on if there is nothing for them to eat.
Residents suspecting that a particular baboon or troop is a significant problem are encouraged to photograph and record incidents of destructive and dangerous behaviour, as well as any details of distinguishing features that would make identification of problem baboons easier. Such information can be emailed to the address below. If proven data of a particular problem individual exisst, baboon management measures may include euthanasia as a last resort.
George Municipality Baboon Management: 044 801 6350 (office hours) and 044 801 6300 (after hours) and firstname.lastname@example.org
For advice on mitigating measures contact CapeNature Conservation Services on 044 802 5300 or https://www.capenature.co.za/