The function for baboon management was assigned to Overstrand Municipality by the Provincial Government on 4 September 2019. The assignment is to sustainably manage the baboon population in the municipal area by keeping them out of the urban area. This must be done by implementing the Strategic Baboon Management Plan that was jointly developed by the Western Cape Provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP), CapeNature (CN) and the Municipality. As a result, the Overstrand Baboon Management Joint Task Team (BMJTT) was established as the joint decision-making structure to maintain oversight over the persons tasked with the implementing the SBMP, as well as to deal on a consensual basis with contentious or sensitive matters that may arise.
Early in August 2021 the BMJTT met to discuss the recorded incidents and case history of a baboon from the Betty’s Bay/Kleinmond troop (BBM1), known as Scarface. At the meeting, it was decided to wait for a report commissioned by the Municipality from an independent assessor, Dr D Gaynor, on the management of the Betty’s Bay/Kleinmond baboon troop.
The independent assessor’s report was received in mid-August 2021 and the BMJTT was convened on 1 September 2021 to consider the report and the information previously submitted about BBM1.
The BMJTT considered the case history of BBM1 for the period from 19 April 2021 to 31 July 2021. During this period there were 94 incidents involving BBM1 of which twenty-one were raiding of occupied houses, eleven incidents of threatening behaviour and thirty-five incidents of breaking in, entering and damaging property. He had also charged and challenged the staff appointed to manage baboons on numerous occasions. The case history and statistics analysed indicated an increase in the number of incidents by BBM1 over the period analysed. It was also reported that the Betty’s Bay/Kleinmond baboons have completely lost their fear of humans. Other evidence considered was information submitted by residents of Betty’s Bay of damage to properties, pets mauled, and homes raided.
In accordance with the Provincial Baboon Management Guidelines, BBM1 was classified as a baboon that enters the urban area and is involved in raiding people directly to obtain human derived food (DCB Category 3 baboon).
Examples of the behaviour exhibited include:
- approaching and taking food from people,
- entering an occupied car/room,
- breaking into a car/building and
- soliciting other troop members to form a temporary raiding group, or more permanent splinter group.
Also considered was the interest, safety and welfare of the Betty’s Bay/Kleinmond troop as a whole, the safety of local residents, and the risk of BBM1 being injured or killed through inhumane methods due to spending more and more time in the urban area, while also leading a splinter group into the urban areas transferring his taught behaviour to others.
Based on the above information the proposal was to remove BBM1 from the troop.
The BMJTT then considered various option. The outcome of the discussion on these alternatives were as follows:
a) relocation to wilderness or remote rural areas.
There are no places within CapeNature reserves where wilderness areas still exist. Most CapeNature Reserves have tourism facilities, and the baboon would still be at risk if it was placed in a reserve where it can continue with its raiding behaviour. The same applies to remote rural areas where raiding baboon are at a higher risk when raiding farming accommodation.
b) relocation to rehabilitation centres and
The BMJTT is not aware of any rehabilitation centres that have successfully released baboon troops into the wild and therefore these animals would only be left to live the rest of their lives in a captured environment. This is against the objective of conservation for the species.
c) Rehabilitation by using a shock collar.
This entails the rehabilitation of a baboon by placing a shock collar on a baboon. This would involve a long-term research project that first needs to be supported by the NSPCA and a research institute that will have to implement the research and monitored it over time. This option could only be considered once the results of the research is available.
Having considered all the above-mentioned information, the proposal to euthanise BBM1 was considered. (Euthanasia is the process of inducing a painless death with the minimum fear and distress. It is always used as the last resort). The proposal to euthanise BBM1 was unanimously supported by the BMJTT. The support was given based on the objective of the baboon management programme and the intent of preserving the species in the wild and not to keep individual baboons alive in captive environments.
CapeNature confirmed that the “PERMIT TO HUNT WITH PROHIBITED HUNTING METHOD OF WILD ANIMALS Issued in terms of the provisions of the Nature Conservation Ordinance 1974, (Ord 19 of 1974) (Section 27, 29, 33 & 47A)” for Overstrand Municipality was in place and valid. The Municipality therefore has the necessary authorisation in the form of a permit issued by CapeNature to the service provider subject to special conditions under the auspices of the Nature Conservation Ordinance. This authorisation allows the Municipality to undertake restricted activities such as using aversion techniques, capture and relocation, and euthanasia.
Based on all the information available and after receiving support from the BMJTT, the municipality made the final decision to euthanise BBM1 on 3 September 2021.
The planning to implement the decision was finalised on 16 September 2021 and the operation to capture BBM1 was started on 17 September 2021. The Western Region Baboon Liaison Group was informed on the morning of 17 September 2021 that the caputre operation would start on that day. The capture was not successful due to poor weather conditions and the baboons did not move down from the valley where they were roosting on that day.
On Saturday morning, 18 September 2021, the capture operation continued and several activists joined the capture operation on site. The Betty’s Bay Baboon Action Group had permission from the Overstand Municipality to be present at the capture operation. The baboons were moving on private land and the capture operation could not take place at that location. Later the morning the baboons moved west towards the Kleinmond golf course. By mid morning the Municipality were contacted by an private organisation who stated that they would collect and translocate the baboon to another facility. They were then advised that the baboon was close to being captured and ageed that the capture could continue and they would arrange to collect the caged baboon. The Municipality agreed and by mid day BBM1 was captured on the edge of town (Kleinmond) with members of the community witnessing the capture. At this time, the Municipality was awaiting confirmaition from the private organisation for collection of the baboon. Confirmation came through that the independent private organisation did not have the required authorisation and necessary permits for the collection and translocation of the baboon and the operation they proposed could not be realised at that time.
Cape Nature and OM agreed that it was not humane to keep BBM1 sedated and caged for an undiscloded time period and the final decision was taken to euthenase BBM1. The euthanasia was administered by an independent veterinarian surgeon.
The Municipalty reluctantly sanctioned the euthnasia of this individual baboon as all other options had been exhausted and it would assist in the long term sustainable conservation of the the Bettys Bay/Kleinmind baboon troop.