Friday, April 30, 2010

"Baboon Matters"

Yesterday afternoon as I stood frozen, scarcely daring to breathe, a huge alpha male baboon casually sauntered past, barely half a metre from my position! I had already watched the self-same individual engaged in a ferocious tree-top territory battle with another male, accompanied by blood-curdling screams and a barrage of pine cones and broken branches that rained down upon us as we stood watching, transfixed. I had never dreamed that I would get THAT close to a wild baboon troupe and be able to observe them in their natural habitat, engaging in their normal social (anti-social?!!) behaviour. This troupe are never fed by humans and have therefore not come to associate humans with food. However, due to the daily presence of the baboon monitors (more about these later), they have become habituated to human presence, hence their rather casual attitude to our being there.

My partner and I had heard about an organisation called, "Baboon Matters", which comprises a handful of volunteers working to raise awareness of the plight of baboons in South Africa. Baboon
Matters also do baboon rescue and rehabilitation, baboon troupe management, as well as training. The 2-hour walk with the troupe of Chacma baboons we did in Noordhoek on the Cape Peninsula accompanied by our trained guide, Mzukisi, is aimed at raising awareness and also assists in fund raising for the work of the organisation. Mzukisi started out as a "Baboon Monitor"
trained by the staff at Baboon Matters. The Monitors play a vital role in ensuring that the baboon troupes do not clash with the human inhabitants of various areas in the Cape Peninsula. The baboon troupes are followed by the monitors and are herded to safer areas using shouts, whistles and clapping if they get too close to human habitations. This minimises conflict between humans and baboons and ensures the ongoing survival of the troupes, which are protected in the Cape Peninsula.

As we will very shortly be living in the forests of Knysna, which are home to several wild baboon troupes, we had decided to educate ourselves about baboons so that we can find a way to live in harmony with the baboons we come into contact with. Mostly baboons are considered pests or vermin and are often shot by people living on the edges of their territory. Clearly this is just NOT an option for us and so we need to find other management strategies. I was particularly concerned about how to keep the baboons away from our vegetable garden, out of our home and also how to manage the interaction between our dogs and wild baboons. We were given loads of tips and ideas on how to manage our future interactions with baboons. The walk was an incredibly exciting, heartwarming and very educational experience, which I really recommend to anyone interested in a completely different wildlife experience.

Below are some photos:

This is my favourite!

Aint life great?

Oh no, what have I done!


Mom's taxi

Maternal bliss

A mother's love

Yet another cutie

That feels SOOO good!!
Baboons spend hours carefully grooming each other to remove ticks and fleas

A group of baboons

Ho hum! Yet ANOTHER photo shoot!

The teenage years can be SO confusing!

Alpha male patrolling his territory

Mzukisi, the guide, and my own tame baboon

Next: Spiritual Guidance

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is brilliant! Keep your doors and windows locked though as they might just decide to forage inside your house :)

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