Two days ago while driving along the main road in Dargle Valley, an adult male samango monkey ran across the road in front of my vehicle then disappeared into a Bluegum plantation. It is believed that samango troops do not wander far away from the forest patches they live in, but this is not the case for the bachelor males who leave their natal troops around the age of six years.
BABOONS AND DOGS – DOGS ATTACK, BABOONS DEFEND
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING FRIENDLY RELATIONS WITH OUR NEIGHBOURS – BOTH HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN
For years I’ve lived harmoniously with dogs, cats, monkeys and baboons. I’ve shared my “territory” with six different raiding baboon troops in various parts of South Africa forcing me to find ways to live in peace with these animals while finding the peace of mind needed to know the dogs and cats that lived with me would be safe.
The wild resident baboon troops have always shown respect for the animals that live with me, including the free-roaming rescued, vervet monkeys that lived in the forest around my home. The video at the end of this post shows how three different primate species lived peacefully together. This is merely one example taken from a time in my life when I was rehabilitating injured and orphaned vervet monkeys.
I’m no different to anyone else; I love the dogs, cats and monkeys in my care and the idea of a baboon attacking any of them is abhorrent.
One day when the wild resident baboon troop arrived, this adult female looked at me, then presented (a friendly and respectful gesture in this context) to my cat.
BABOONS/MONKEY RELY ON RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIPS – WITHIN THE TROOP AS WELL AS WITH THEIR HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN NEIGHBOURS:
If you’re concerned about the animals in your care, it is important to show respect for the baboons and/or monkeys that wander onto your property so that they will offer you the same behaviour. This certainly does not mean allowing them to cross boundaries; we can show them they are not welcome to take our food while showing them that we can be trusted not to harm them.
THE BABOONS/MONKEYS AROUND YOUR HOME ASSOCIATE THE ANIMALS IN YOUR CARE WITH YOU.
Be aware that a wild primate troop in the area has established a relationship with you over time – whether you are conscious of this or not – and the animals associated with you.
Baboons are generally exceptionally tolerant of dogs chasing them and may even play with them. However, they discern between dogs that chase for harmless reasons and dogs that are a serious threat to the members of the troop – particularly the babies.
Sometimes residents have dogs that are particularly vicious towards intruders – it may be the breed or the manner in which the dog was trained and this could create a problem with baboons whereby the baboons are forced to defend themselves against your dog, but this is not the only reason for dogs being attacked. The first question I ask when a resident tells me their dog was attacked by a baboon is: what is your relationship with the baboons – have you ever killed a baby or other troop member?
Your attitude towards the wild resident baboon troop that enters your property may be the reason behind the baboons attacking your dog.
The juveniles in the wild troop were particularly interested in forming friendships with my cats.
BUT WON’T A BABOON GET VENGEFUL IF I CHASE THE TROOP AWAY FROM MY VEGETABLE GARDEN?
Baboon/monkey troops understand your need to protect your property. If you shoot one of their troop members while chasing them away from your vegetable garden, you may well create a problem in your relationship with them but if you adopt non-lethal deterrents, this will be understood and accepted.
HOW CAN I SHOW THE BABOONS I RESPECT THEM WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY SHOWING THAT THEY MAY NOT RAID MY PROPERTY?
- ADOPT NON-LETHAL METHODS TO LIVE IN HARMONY WITH BABOONS/MONKEYS. Methods on how to live peacefully can be found on this site and are looked at in our video presentation above.
- TRAIN YOUR DOG NOT TO CHASE THEM: Some dogs are difficult to train and may not listen but the fact that YOU are showing them that you don’t approve of your dog chasing them shows them you care about their welfare.As mentioned previously, baboons are exceptionally tolerant of dogs chasing them generally but when forced to defend themselves against attack, the interaction may turn violent.
The goal is to establish a friendly relationship with your wild primate neighbours while consistently making sure they know they can’t take food from your property in a way that does not threaten their lives.
Because we live in a human world, we rarely get to see the extent that wild animals are killed by dogs:
Serval kitten killed by dogs
Monkey killed by dogs
Below are some things we’ve heard people say about baboons in South Africa….and some answers based on current scientific knowledge.
Look at those long teeth – they must be for hunting prey.
Unlike dogs and cats, baboons are not natural carnivores and they do not have adaptations for hunting and eating meat. The long canine teeth you see on a male baboon are instead adaptations for male-male competition; males use these teeth to fight with other males and gain access to females. More commonly, males do not even have to use their teeth: they simply display them to other males in an open-mouthed threat or yawn, which serves as a signal to other males to stay away.
Baboons do occasionally hunt and eat small animals such as hares and lizards, but such foods comprise only a very small portion of their diet, which includes virtually everything (i.e., they are ‘omnivores’). For more on baboon diets, see the Baboon Ecology page.
Also keep in mind that there are other animals, such as cats, snakes, and raptors, that habitually prey on birds, birds’ eggs, and other small animals. These animals, unlike baboons, are natural predators and are much better than baboons at locating and catching prey.
Look at those long teeth – I’d better watch out!
Baboons are not natural predators and thus would not normally attack a human unless threatened in some way. Examples of this would be if a baboon is made to feel trapped (e.g., inside a house with no escape route), if a person tries to take something away from a baboon (e.g., food), or if a person gets between an adult baboon and its infant. A baboon may also feel threatened if you look at it directly in the eyes, as baboons use direct eye contact to threaten one another.
Look at those long teeth – he’s out to get my pet!
A baboon will not normally attack a dog or cat unless it feels threatened in some way. For example, a baboon may react aggressively if the dog lunges at or attacks the baboon, if the dog gets between an adult baboon and its infant, or if the baboon is made to feel trapped (e.g., inside a house with no escape route). With small dogs and cats, it is possible that the baboon may perceive it as prey – as baboons do sometimes hunt and eat small mammals such as hares and small antelope. So, best to keep your pets away from baboons. For more information, see the Baboons and Dogspage.
We see more baboons around, so their population size must be increasing.
In greatest likelihood, you see more baboons around you because the baboons in the area where you live are (a) gradually losing their fear of humans while (b) discovering how easy it is to gain access to human foods. These are psychological and behavioural changes in the baboons as a response to their interactions with humans. The baboons have formed a mental association between humans and easily-acquired food and have learned that they need not fear humans but can instead get food from them! This occurs because some people (particularly tourists) feed baboons and the baboons that do raid are not being stopped from doing so. Over time, the baboons will spend more and more of their time near people awaiting a free meal unless they learn that those free meals are no longer available.
As a result of these changes, we see the baboons around more often and naturally come to the conclusion that there are more of them in the population. The most likely scenario, however, is that there are just more of them near us because that’s where they get the best food!
Note: for some basic information on how fast baboons reproduce, see the Baboon Reproduction page.
Baboons are becoming bolder and more aggressive.
Baboons are not naturally aggressive towards humans and will usually only show aggression if you trap them or try to take something away from them. Baboons are wild animals and, like most wild animals, are naturally afraid of humans! The increased aggression and boldness of baboons that we perceive simply reflects a decreased fear of humans combined with an increased opportunity for free food. As stated above, these are psychological and behavioural changes occurring in the baboons themselves as they learn that humans are a source of easily-acquired food at the same time that they discover that there is no reason to fear humans. if humans and baboons are to co-exist peacefully then we must try to reverse or at least slow down this process as much as possible. To do this, we must (1) remove these opportunities for free food (i.e., decrease the attractants) and (2) increase the baboons’ fear of humans (i.e., use effective deterrents and never feed or approach baboons!). For more information, see the Causes of Commensalism page.
Baboons are competing with humans for territory.
A territory is an area that animals defend against other members of their own species. Unlike many other primates, such as chimpanzees for example, baboons are NOT territorial. Rather, each baboon troop occupies a ‘home range’, part of which overlaps with the home range of other troops. Usually different troops avoid using these overlapping areas at the same time, and troops and home ranges shift fluidly in accordance with one another. (Thus, if humans encroach upon the home range of one troop, this can affect that troop’s relationship with other troops as well as the home ranges of all other troops in the area.) When baboon troops fight, it is usually over a food resource, over a sleeping site, or it is related to male-male competition over females and/or attempted infanticide – it is not over territories.
Baboons are opportunistic and will take food from our properties if it is available. This will occur whether or not our property is (or was) within the home range of that troop. We may think that we can keep baboons away by ‘showing them’ that this is ‘our’ territory. This is pointless, as a baboon couldn’t care less whose territory it is – it just wants the food!
Expanding human populations results in increased overlap between baboons and humans. This, combined with the natural flexibility of baboons, means that instead of ‘moving out’ of their original home range or simply dying off, a baboon troop may instead simply adapt its behaviour to this increased contact. As baboons lose their fear of humans (sometimes as a result of interactions with tourists and/or deliberate provisioning of baboons by humans), they become more and more willing to exploit the human-derived food resources they see as readily available to them and they start helping themselves to the food they find in gardens, homes, and cars with little or no regard for the humans who may be nearby.
For more information on keeping baboons out of “your” territory, see the Baboons and Your Property page.
Baboons mark their territories, and we can ‘fight back’ by marking ours.
Many animals mark their territories with urine or other bodily fluids, leaving a scent that is detectable by other animals. Baboons do not do this. There are two issues to consider here:
1. Baboons are not territorial (see above).
2. In the monkey and ape species that are territorial, vocalizations are used most often to defend territories, NOT scent-marking.
All monkeys and apes, like humans, use visual and vocal communication far more than the sense of smell. Monkeys and apes do not have the rhinarium (wet nose) that dogs and cats have, and without this feature they have to get very close to something to smell it. Many people assume that baboons have a keen sense of smell because of their dog-like face, but in fact their sense of smell is not very different from our own!
Lone baboon males are ‘rogue males’ that have been rejected by their troop and are out to cause trouble.
Male baboons typically leave the troops in which they were born and move into new troops to reproduce. Some males do this two or more times during their lifetime. This process of group transfer, called dispersal, may start when a male is a young subadult (i.e., not yet full body size, canine teeth not yet fully developed), at which point he may leave his natal troop and join other troops on a temporary basis while he decides which troop to ultimately immigrate into. We thus sometimes see male baboons wandering around alone during this dispersal process, which may last several months or more. For more information about dispersal in baboons, see the Dispersal and Philopatry page.
Unfortunately, some of these dispersing males do ‘get into trouble,’ as it is much easier for a lone male baboon to slip into the urban area and enter buildings looking for food without being seen than for an entire troop to do so! These males are often viewed as ‘sneaky’ because they enter buildings silently. This probably has nothing to do with the baboon deliberately trying to hide from humans. Rather, it is likely because the baboon is alone, surrounded by members of another species that he is naturally afraid of, and without any other baboons around to communicate with!
Also unfortunate is the situation in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa where dispersing males often end up stuck in urban areas because they are trying to disperse across them – but there is simply too much urban sprawl in the way for them to be able to reach new troops.
The alpha male baboon leads the troop.
Baboon troops are held together by kinship bonds among related females, who typically stay their entire lives in the troop in which they were born. These females are organized into matrilines, with each female that is born ranking in a dominance hierarchy just below her mother. The oldest females in the troop are the ‘matriarchs’, and they have been in the troop the longest and have acquired the most knowledge. Male baboons, by contrast, leave their natal troops and disperse to new troops one or more times in their lives. Males fight for dominance amongst themselves, and there is invariably an ‘alpha male’ of the troop, but his alpha status may be short-lived and he may not have been in the troop for very long. Thus it is the females, especially the oldest females, that hold the troop together, that know the most about local resources, and that probably contribute the most to the troop’s movement patterns. For more information on kinship bonds and sociality in baboons, see the Baboon Sociality page.
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Dr. Jessica Rothman
Dr. Angela van Doorn
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Please credit this website for any and all use of this material.
This info has been taken from the following site: http://www.imfene.org/baboons-and-dogs
When baboons live near humans, they naturally come into regular contact with the pets of humans, including dogs. Sometimes interactions between baboons and dogs turn nasty and one of the animals involved – dog or baboon – ends up getting hurt. Contrary to popular belief, baboons have no reason to hurt dogs unless dogs are a threat to them, nor are baboons ‘territorial’ with dogs. Dogs defend territories; baboons do not. In fact, baboons have been observed grooming and playing with dogs that they are familiar with. However, bear in mind that dogs are domesticated whereas baboons are wild animals and are thus unpredictable in their behaviour.
More often than not, when dogs get hurt by baboons, this results from fights started by dogs or when an owner has told the dog to go after the baboon. Usually the initial reaction of a baboon to a dog is to run away or to simply ignore the dog. However, if a dog threatens or attacks a baboon, perhaps because it sees the baboon as a threat to itself or its owner, the baboon will likely respond with aggression simply to protect itself. Dog owners should be aware of this and avoid contact between dogs and baboons as much as possible.
Baboons and dogs may have playful intentions toward each other when they meet, but one can never be sure about the intentions of animals and we thus cannot predict what such interactions may lead to. Pet owners should take precautions to prevent conflicts between baboons and dogs by preventing them from interacting in the first place.
One other note: while baboons are not carnivores and are not natural predators, they do sometimes kill and eat small animals such as hares, small antelope, or lizards. Thus, while we do not know of any such instances, do keep in mind that a very small dog may possibly be viewed by a baboon as a potential meal.
Solution: Keep Dogs Away from Baboons
Whenever possible, try to prevent any interaction between dogs and baboons.
In Baboon Territory:
- Do not walk dogs in areas where you know baboons reside. There are often laws forbidding dog-walking in park areas where baboons live; these laws exist for a reason and it is best for both the safety of dogs and baboons to follow such rules.
- If you must walk your dog in areas where baboons reside, at least keep the dog on a leash at all times.
- If your dog ever runs off and chases or attacks a baboon, call your dog off immediately before the fight escalates. Always have a leash with you to put on your dog if necessary.
On Your Own Property:
- If baboons come onto your property, keep your dogs inside the house. If they are outside, call them in.
- Do not send your dog to chase away baboons, as this will very likely result in injury to one or both animals. Such fights have been known to result in death of one of the animals involved.
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WESTERN CAPE 2015:
The con in conservation.
During my seventeen years working with wild primates, one nagging concern remained consistent: our nature conservation authorities appeared to be on the wrong side.The 2015 hunting notice allows for baboons/monkeys to be killed using various methods once again instilling the chilling reminder that they seem to support the self-serving interests of farmers and hunters at the expense of the environment. If our nature conservation authorities are unable to view the environment as a whole but continue to support legislation that allows so-called “problem species” (as defined by certain sectors of society) to be persecuted, we are given little hope for South Africa’s environmental future.
The vervet monkey and chacma baboon are protected and listed under appendix two of C.I.T.E.S which warns that trade in these species needs to be monitored to ensure they do not become endangered.
Except for the Cape Peninsula in South Africa, primate populations are not monitored and assumptions are conveniently made using old, outdated data.
A COMMON MISCONCEPTION:
A healthy monkey or baboon troop is made up of a fragile, cohesive social system and is measured by the age/sex ratio of members. Measuring the health of a primate group by relying on numbers – as if they are autonomous objects – is where most people go wrong. Primates are social animals!
Baboons are not Predators!
“Baboons are not natural predators and thus would not normally attack a human unless threatened in some way. Examples of this would be if a baboon is made to feel trapped (e.g., inside a house with no escape route), if a person tries to take something away from a baboon (e.g., food), or if a person gets between an adult baboon and its infant. A baboon may also feel threatened if you look at it directly in the eyes, as baboons use direct eye contact to threaten one another.” For more info: http://www.imfene.org/misconceptions-about-baboons
Wild primates are not commonly regarded as venison:
As the chacma baboon and vervet monkey are not considered to be venison, their presence on the hunting list is highly questionable.
Hunting primates and zoonotic diseases:
Humans, baboons and monkeys all belong to the primate family making the transmission of diseases between them particularly risky.
Baboons share 92% of the same DNA as humans, monkeys share 91% and bonobos share 99%.
The presence of wild primates on the hunting list encourages the consumption of bushmeat and the consequential spreading of zoonotic diseases (Simian Foamy Virus, TB, Ebola etc.)
There is no “sport value in hunting primates:
Wild primates do not regard human primates as predators and do not fear them the way they would a predator. Instead, they regard as another primate species with whom they sometimes need to compete with for resources. The level of fear they exhibit – or the lack of it – is due to learnt experience as they move through life interacting with either hostile or kind, friendly humans. Their tendency to get close to humans makes them highly vulnerable to being hunted at close range and the total lack of “sport value” makes it akin to canned hunting.
Damage caused to troop structures:
The vervet monkey and chacma baboon are listed on the hunting list based on the assumption that these populations are plentiful; it is widely believed that they are commonly seen and are therefore healthy. This is a misconception for the following reasons:
This view does not take the damage done to troop structures into consideration but regards these highly social species in terms of numbers only, without any regard to the dependence they have on a healthy social system. A healthy primate troop relies on a fragile social system; shooting individuals leads to damaged troop structures which in turn impacts on related systems. Humans have impacted heavily on dysfunctional troops.
Vervet Monkey populations are damaged in the W.C.
Vervet monkey populations are not monitored yet the damage done to these populations is clear to anyone living in the area who has some knowledge about conservation. This makes their inclusion on the hunting list all the more critical.
Vervet Monkey populations between Mossel Bay and Stormsriver are badly damaged. Residents report the disappearance of whole troops. It is no longer common to sight these animals and troops – more often than not – contain too few individuals (often under five). With fewer troops around, dispersing males have further to travel, at great risk, to find new troops to move into.
Baboon troops often exhibit an unhealthy skew in the adult male to female ratio as males are most often targeted by humans.
“While undertaking the Knysna elephant research project I was surprised how infrequently vervet monkeys were sighted. Also of concern was the small troop size.
Recommendation. Research urgently needs to be undertaken on the status, distribution and genetic diversity (and degree of relatedness) of vervet monkeys in this portion of this Western Cape.” – Gareth Patterson
How the Hunting Proclamation influences the public and perpetuates the persecution of wild primates:
The general public looks to our Nature Conservation authorities for guidance. At present, the Hunting Proclamation which allows landowners to kill two monkeys/baboons every day, all year round gives the public the clear message that the lives of primates are cheap, their contribution to biodiversity is irrelevant and persecuting them is acceptable.
Public perception, misconceptions and South African conservation legislation have dramatically contributed to a number of primate orphans living in South African rehabilitation centres. The same factors have heavily influenced the growing amount of primates being held as pets. Hundreds of orphaned vervet monkeys and baboons currently reside in various rescue and rehabilitation centres in South Africa. These rescue centres receive no support from our conservation authorities and are self-reliant against all odds.
Considering these observations, the question remains: why are the vervet monkey and chacma baboon listed on a hunting list? Taking the above into consideration, I can only conclude that Cape Nature continues to support the self-serving interests of farmers and hunters at the expense of a healthy biodiversity.
The implications of making bow hunting legal:
- – A licence is not required to own and use a bow and arrow, thus the legal persecution of wild primates is extended to a larger percentage of the South African public.
- Hunting with a bow and arrow is silent, hence killing wildlife can be easily done in secret – with less accountability for the damage caused to the animal and the species.
- Hunting with a bow and arrow makes it easier for the amateur hunter to wound and kill no matter how much cruelty is involved without the threat of punishment.
- It is generally accepted that Cape Nature does not have the capacity to monitor hunting, allowing for the widespread abuse of hunting activities.
“Firearms Control Act (FCA): What further fuelled the bow hunting industry in South Africa was the implementation of our draconian “Firearms Control Act” or FCA. This act made owning a firearm an onerous task and obtaining licences became and remains a task of note. Many avid hunters in South Africa then explored bow hunting and many have become bow hunting enthusiasts. We now have bow shops all over the country, even in the small towns. No licences are required. Although there are minimum specifications for bows and arrows for differing species, the authorities lack the capacity to monitor the local market”. AFRICAN INDABA NOVEMBER 2013, VOLUME 11-5&6
As the authorities do not have the capacity to monitor hunting, we can assume that widespread abuse is likely to occur. It is unrealistic for Cape Nature to believe that landowners will act responsibly in the best interests of the environment when it is easier to serve one’s self-serving financial interests based on the misconception that shooting solves the problem of raiding; during the past 350 years the irrational idea that killing problem animals solves the problem of raiding monkeys and baboons has been the guiding rule in wildlife management yet after 350 years we still have the same problems.
Read about our Shocking Failure of Conservation from Chris Mercer of CACH for more info.
Links: MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BABOONS – https://darwinprimategroup.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/misconceptions-about-baboons/
Once upon a time in Africa, people understood that us humans are not above all other animals but equal to them. And so the time has come for us to reflect on the past, present and look deeply to find a solution to the damage we have caused.
Credo Mutwa is an extraordinary South African character; he is a traditional healer, psychic and talented storyteller. His knowledge of old Africa which has been progressively lost throughout past decades remains a crucial key to understanding our true relationship to nature and other animals. In his book, Isilwane the Animal, he describes how African people did not see us humans as separate from nature in the past: we understood that we are not above animals, trees, fishes and birds but equal to them.
Old Africa understood our interconnectedness with all living beings. When the white man
came to Africa, the continent was teeming with animals which were then mass slaughtered once they erected their farms.
Credo makes the point that many westerners still believe that conservation was imported by colonial powers into Africa and Ian Player confirms in the foreward to the book that those who worked in reserves and protected areas in Zululand know that conservation existed long before the white man arrived. He describes how African tribes respected nature and our interconnectedness with the Earth by holding wild animals as their totems – a system which served to preserve the environment and showed a clear respect for a healthy biodiversity.
Excerpts from ISILWANE THE ANIMAL BY CREDO MUTWA:
“Through Isilwane the Animal, I hope to open the eyes of the world to traditional African attitudes, folklore and rituals which have governed the relationships between the people of Africa and the animal world.
Today we see the human race running around in circles, like a mad dog chasing its own tail. Today, the same type of confusion prevails in all fields of human thought. There is confusion in the way we view ourselves, there is confusion in the way we view the earth, there is even confusion, believe it or not, at the core of every one of the world’s religions. I can state this with confidence as I have studied most of these religions and even joined some of them.
But why the confusion? It is due to the way we view things: the way we view the atom, stars, life on Earth, and the way we view the Deity Himself or Herself. But the most dangerous and destructive view by far – one which has changed human beings into rampaging, destructive and mindless beasts – is that we compare ourselves with other living things.
Western Man is taught that he is the master of all living things. The bible itself enshrines this extreme attitude, as do other great books. Repeatedly one hears of dangerous phrases such as “untamed nature”, or “interrogating nature with power”. One hears of the strange belief that man is superior to all other living things on Earth and that he was especially created to be overlord and custodian of all things animate and inanimate. Until these attitudes are combated and erased from the human mind, Westernised humans will be a danger to all earthly life, including themselves.”
“When white people came to Africa, they had been conditioned to separate themselves spiritually and physically from wildlife. In the vast herds of animals, they saw four footed enemies to be crushed and objects of fun to be destroyed for pleasure. They slaughtered wild animals by the million. It never occurred to the white pioneers that these animals were protected by the native tribes through whose land they migrated. It never occurred to them, with their muskets, rifles and carbines, that black people worshipped these great herds and regarded them as an integral part of their existence on Earth.”
CONSERVATION AND THE TOTEM SYSTEM:
“In old Africa, every tribe had an animal that it regarded as its totem, an animal after which the tribe had been names by its founders. It was the sacred duty of the tribe to ensure that the animal after which it was named was never harmed within the confines of its territory. In addition, Africans knew that certain wild animals co-exist with others, and that in order to protect the animal after which the tribe was named, it was essential to protect those animals with which the sacred one co-existed. In KwaZulu- Natal for example, there is a tribe, the Dube people, for whom the zebra is a totem. These people not only protect vast herds of zebra in their tribal land, allowing them to roam where they choose, but they also protect herds of wildebeest because they realise that zebras co-exist with wildebeest. …The old Africans knew that to protect the zebra one had to effectively protect the wildebeest, the warthog, the bushpig, the eland, the kudu and other animals sometimes found grazing with zebra in the bush. But the old Africans knew that it was not enough to simply protect those animals which grazed with their totem animal. It was essential to protect those animals which preyed upon their sacred animals.
“There were tribes, such as the Batswana Bakaru and the Bafurutsi, which regarded the Baboon as their totem. They knew that protecting the baboons alone was not enough. The leopard which preyed on the baboon had to be protected, along with the plants upon which the baboon fed. The people knew that if they did not protect the plants, they would starve in the bush and start feeding on the crops in the people’s corn and maize fields. If this occurred, baboons would become man’s enemy.
The Batswana Batloung tribe, whose name means “people of the elephant”, were sworn to protect the elephant. They also protected the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus, which they regarded as the elephant’s cousins. It was believed that an elephant would not injure a person who carried the Bafluong name.”
“The African people knew, just as the native American people knew, that if you destroy the environment, you will ultimately destroy the human race. …A remarkable Tswana proverb states that, “He who buries the tree, will next bury the wild animal, and after that, bury his own ox, and ultimately bury his own children.” This saying indicates that people were aware, even in ancient times, of the interdependence on all living creatures upon this Earth, and that if you harm one, you harm others and, in the end yourself.”
A Researcher working in Uganda contacted me some time ago to ask if I could help her understand what was happening to the villagers in her area who had reported that the women were being “sexually harassed” by a troop of baboons. These “attacks” occurred when the women headed towards the river to do their daily clothes washing.
I asked if anyone had threatened the baboons, or perhaps walked too close to an infant? She answered that the baboon threats were totally unprovoked by the women and they feared they would be “raped”.
Baboons do not rape or sexually harass human women.
Bewildered by this story, I questioned the researcher further.
“Were there any men around when these women were threatened by the baboons?”, I asked.
The answer to that was “yes”.
The men were threatening the baboons due to a fear of them harming the women.
The behaviour described above is a clear cut case of redirected aggression. The baboons were threatening the women because – in their eyes – women are lower ranking hence it is safer to threaten a woman who is connected to a hostile man than threaten the man himself.
This is common behaviour among wild primates. If an adult human man attacks or strongly threatens a male baboon who feels he has to respond, and there happens to be a woman close by, the baboon will threaten the woman.
As far as baboons sexually harassing humans is concerned, it appears that a certain amount of projection was involved in understanding the behaviour of these baboons.
The solution to a problem like this would be for the men and women to ignore the baboons, act passively and be respectful of their troop and territory.
To harmoniously co-exist with wild primates, it requires us to practice tolerance and patience. We need to take the time to understand their language so we can correctly interpret the behaviour that scares us.
“If Homo sapiens disappeared, the event would go virtually unnoticed by the vast majority of Earth’s life forms. As hominids, we dwell at the outermost fringes of important ecological processes such as photosynthesis and the conversion of biomass into usable nutrients.” Christopher Manes (Nature and Silence 1996:24)
The variety of living things all act together to make the web of life work. Over time this variety has been dangerously reduced by one species – humans. The consequences of this ensure that the present destructive events will continue until it is too late; unless we bring about serious change.
All living things are necessary for Biodiversity – sun, water, plants, insects, reptiles, mammals, soil, fungi and bacteria are some examples of these life forms. The dependency of life forms on each other, the amount of species in existence, the genetic wealth within each and the natural areas where they occur are other elements necessary for biodiversity.
Humans too are necessary and part of this web. Some of us see humans as above all other species, as a species that has the god given right – or self imposed right – to control and manipulate the rest of nature, while some of us see humans as having a role no more important in the big scheme of life than carrying bacteria in the human armpit as pointed out by Michael Tobias.
“From the biosphere’s perspective, the whole point of Homo sapiens is their armpits, as warm with 24.1 billion bacteria” (vii).Michael Tobias (in the introduction to the collection Deep Ecology)
But whichever way we look at it, none of us can deny that the human population growth is way out of balance in relation to other species and this is the primary fact responsible for breaking down the web of life.
If humans did not interfere in nature, balance could be restored, because natural laws will ensure sustainable population densities. Natural forces will often bring balance back by causing the offending organisms to become extinct.
Those who support the concept of sustainable use of natural resources, consider all species manageable to sustain the ongoing population increase of humans.
The problem with this theory – and why it does not and never has – worked is that the most destructive and over populated species – the biggest consumers – are left out of the equation; In short, other species are “culled” so that humans can continue to over-populate, encroach on and destroy the environment and those who depend on it.
Unless our own species is viewed in the same light as all others, long term conservation based on the principles of sustainable use, is unrealistic.
For many of us, the answer lies in transforming an overwhelming anthropocentric (human based) view of the world into one that is bio-centric (where we are seen as one species amongst all others). If we don’t change our destructive behaviour patterns, we will be unable to avoid a total end to our planet.
This is why; it is entirely objective and realistic to refuse to embrace the culling of animals while humans ignore their own role as an over-populated species that by far destroys more than any other.
We do not simply oppose the culling of animals – this needs to be seen in the context of human populations; how can we morally and objectively justify the decision to cull other species until we have made the human population explosion a priority to be viewed as the most important factor contributing to environmental damage.
If humans have rights, how can animals not when you consider the above? By the same token if animals are granted no rights, then the most over populated species – humans – would have no right to rights either, provided we were able to look at the big picture without getting sentimentally swayed by our own self-imposed self importance (one which incidentally, the rest of nature does not agree with for if it did, there would be no environmental degradation).
While animal rightists are accused of being sentimental, emotional and unrealistic, the fact is that the concept of sustainable use is exactly that – it is human based at the expense of all other life forms and in being so is a concept that appears to work in theory but has yet to do so in practice.