Living with the Chacma Baboons in Cape Town

May 16, 2024
Baby Chacma Baboon

Learning to live alongside the Chacma Baboons.

Living on the mountain has many benefits. You get to experience nature, a lot of birdlife and some wildlife. Living on the Cape Peninsula, I am so filled with gratitude, as I have sea views and plenty of interesting wildlife encounters. And my favourite is so many eagles, hawks, and beautiful birds.  We have squirrels, porcupines, and even smaller duiker. And the elusive caracal.  But lately, we have been blessed by a small troop of baboons.

Luckily, I have a lot of experience dealing with baboons, as I lived in Simonstown for many years. And was visited by a massive troop sometimes twice a week. I have been face to face with an Alpha Male Baboon, sitting on my desk.  Snatching my toast out of my hand and finishing my breakfast on my plate.  I don’t fear wildlife as I do humans. I sat patiently, locked eyes with this gorgeous creature, and allowed him to eat.  After he was finished, he left.

Baby Chacma Baboon sits in grass

Baboons are not dangerous; they don’t attack you nor do they bite or eat you!  If you taunt them or get in their way, I am sure they will be aggressive back in self-defense. So many uneducated humans with a lack of compassion, don’t understand them.  And you will find unfortunately they are shot at, killed, and poisoned.  Fifteen years ago we had massive troops living in Cape Point, I remember as a young teenager observing them affectionally loving each other in the afternoon sun, foraging off the land.  This has changed.

Important to note, that humans have increased their homes higher upon the mountains, taking their land, and area of food. Humans cause terrible arson, burning many kilometres of land, and food for the baboons. Causing the ripple effect.

Baby Chacma Baboon

Increase in Urban Areas

The Chacma baboon, native to southern Africa, including countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia has adapted to various habitats including urban areas. In recent years, as urbanisation has expanded. Therefore, the Chacma baboons have increasingly encountered human populations, leading to both challenges and opportunities.

Foraging Behaviour

Baboons are opportunistic feeders and have learned to exploit food resources in urban environments. They may raid garbage bins, steal food from homes, and scavenge in residential areas. This behaviour can lead to conflicts with humans and property damage. It is important to note, that once they get into our rubbish and taste our foods, they get addicted.  To the sugar and carbohydrate, which is not in their diet at all.  So this causes them to return.  Almost like a drug addict for their fix.

Conflict with Humans

Baboons entering urban areas often encounter humans, resulting in conflicts. This can include property damage.  Aggression towards humans or pets. Baboons may also become habituated to human presence, which can pose risks to both humans and baboons. Therefore, it is vitally important that we move them on, peacefully back to the mountains. Or, even better, start making the change to save this species.

Big Alpha Male in Cape Point

Conservation Concerns

Urbanisation can fragment baboon habitats, leading to isolated populations and genetic issues. Additionally, increased human-baboon conflicts can lead to negative perceptions of baboons, potentially impacting conservation efforts. I have heard there is a woman in Simonstown who has shot and killed Chacma baboons.  I was appalled by hearing this.  How can this be? Firing gunshots in an urban setting is illegal.

Management Strategies

Local authorities and conservation organizations implement various strategies to manage human-baboon conflicts in urban areas. These may include baboon-proofing garbage bins. It is everyone’s absolute responsibility to ensure that they have a baboon-proof dustbin.  It is also important to start respecting these misunderstood creatures.  Educate yourself.  Let’s raise educational campaigns to raise awareness about baboon behaviour.  Let’s work by employing baboon monitors to deter baboons from entering urban areas. And peacefully translocating individuals or troops.

I have driven through Simonstown in bin day and I am shocked that still in 2024, there are dustbins that are overflowing with rubbish, calling the baboons in to raid them.  But, when they do, they are harmed, maimed, and killed.  Take responsibility for your own trash! Learn to recycle.

Ecological Role:

Despite the challenges they pose, Chacma baboons play essential ecological roles in their ecosystems. They help regulate prey populations.  Including, dispersing seeds, and shaping vegetation through their foraging and browsing activities. Thus, conservation efforts aim to mitigate conflicts while also recognizing the ecological importance of baboons.

Beautiful curious Chacma Baboon

Lastly, Chacma baboons in urban areas present complex challenges that require careful management.  Notwithstanding, massive cooperation between communities, authorities, and conservationists.

Finding sustainable solutions that balance human needs with the conservation of the chacma baboons and their habitats is crucial for the long-term coexistence of humans and wildlife in urbanising landscapes.

Chacma Baboon close up

The quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” holds a profound meaning and highlights the importance of how a society treats its non-human inhabitants. In a straightforward interpretation, Gandhi emphasizes that a nation’s magnificence can be measured by its compassion towards animals.
Learning to live alongside with the Chacma Baboons

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