Animal lovers and rights activists are up in arms over hunting permits granting permission to shoot two baboons a day.
The permits were issued to two wine farms in Constantia in Cape Town in October 2017.
The killing of baboons – seven of them to date – has sparked growing outrage among residents in Cape Town after it was revealed by the local Constantiaberg Bulletin newspaper.
The Bulletin reported that baboons were being shot at their sleeping sites and that some had been forced to flee into residential areas‚ where they were injured‚ shot or attacked by dogs.
Distressed Capetonians have started an online petition‚ circulated on Facebook‚ to “demand the end of the horrific baboon cull in Cape Town”.
Asked about the licences to kill baboons‚ which are valid until October‚ Cape Nature Conservation communications manager Marietjie Engelbrecht said on Monday: “A condition of the permit is that each hunt is reported and registered within 24 hours in order to monitor numbers. Daily hunts are not a practical occurrence.”
Engelbrecht said they approved the hunting permits “as a last resort to mitigate human-wildlife conflict”.
“The applicants were able to prove that they have implemented multiple non-lethal mitigation measures over a number of years to try to prevent the continued damage to vineyards and infrastructure without success‚ and have experienced extensive losses‚” she said.
However‚ the secrecy around the permits was on Monday called into question by Jenni Trethowan‚ founder of the Baboon Matters Trust.
Trethowan said the Baboon Technical Team‚ which oversees baboon management on the Cape Peninsula‚ should have gone public about the shooting of baboons if all the justifications were there.
“I’m appalled at the lack of transparency‚” she said. “We heard a lot of chatter on social groups about baboons being killed but this was the first time it has been confirmed.
“Cape Nature Conservation‚ which issued the permits‚ is on the team – as well as the city of Cape Town‚ conservation authorities and researchers. They must have known about it‚” said Trethowan.
According to Engelbrecht‚ “All members of the team were present [when they discussed permits]. I can’t tell you why the information didn’t filter down.”
Buitenverwachting owner Lars Maack told the Bulletin he had applied for a hunting licence as a last resort when electric fences and paintball guns failed to keep the baboons away from their crops and dogs‚ and staff felt threatened.
Klein Constantia vineyard manager Craig Harris told the paper that they had tried monitors with paintball guns and a “virtual fence” experiment‚ which had failed to keep the baboons away.
Hout Bay resident Patrick Semple said: “I don’t understand how wealthy farmers next to a national park can justify killing animals from the national park because they are coming over to eat grapes. Surely they can make another plan?”
Birth control for Tokai baboons could be a non-lethal way to manage the growing numbers in Tokai troops‚ suggested scientist Esme Beamish from UCT’s Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa.
Beamish‚ who studies population dynamics on the peninsula‚ said the Tokai troops had shown the strongest growth of all managed troops‚ with their numbers increasing from 115 in one troop in 2006 to over 250 in four troops in 2017.
“The growth in the Tokai troops is a concern to baboon management. For this reason they would be the first candidates for a reproductive control programme‚” said Beamish.
“The fire and removal of pines from the area was good for baboon welfare and conservation in that it reduced some of the artificial sleeping sites and human-derived food resources [pine nuts].”
Beamish said removing specific raiding baboons‚ as practised by the City of Cape Town‚ could be more beneficial than culling baboons in general.
The broader issue of human-wildlife conflict had been triggered by baboons being “isolated to diminishing areas of natural vegetation as a result of urban-agricultural development‚” she said.
“The City of Cape Town’s baboon management programme has successfully reduced baboon-human conflict in residential areas by keeping baboons out of ‘town’ and in the natural vegetation 98% of the time.
“This is measured by reduced injury or death to baboons as a result of attacks by humans‚” said Beamish‚ adding that the programme did not extend to agricultural land‚ which fell under Cape Nature.