MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BABOONS

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Given that no other animal on earth (besides humans) drinks milk after being weaned, it is bizarre that farmers complain of baboons stealing milk from dairy cows. More and more humans are accepting that milk is an unnatural food source that is often the cause of allergies. Why would a wild primate want milk from a domestic cow?  

 

“Unlike dogs and cats, baboons are not natural carnivores and they do not have adaptations for hunting and eating meat.” Those of us who live in the world of wild primates are all too familiar with the common misconceptions that abound.

 So, why do farmers still claim, “baboons attack livestock to get milk”, or to eat.  Firstly, it is a common mistake for farmers to blame primates for crimes they didn’t commit because primates are diurnal hence farmers see them often while the real culprits – true predators – generally attack at night. To get some perspective on how distorted this misconception is, one can Google: “baboons attacking livestock”. We welcome any photographic information that challenges this view.

 

 

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.

 


Content on this page contributed by:
Larissa Swedell
Julian Saunders
Thanks to the following reviewers for improving this page:
Dr. Jessica Rothman
Dr. Angela van Doorn
Dr. Janette Wallis
Dr. Kirsten Wimberger

Please credit this website for any and all use of this material.

BABOONS AND CONSERVATION

 

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.


Content on this page contributed by:
Shahrina Chowdhury

 

Content on this page reviewed by:
Julian Saunders
Larissa Swedell
Kirsten Wimberger
Crista Johnson

Please credit this website for any and all use of this material.

OLD AFRICA AND THE ENVIRONMENT

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

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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.”

BIODIVERSITY:

“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.”

Africa – Misunderstanding Wild Baboons

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.

Monkey Mayhem

nohandPhoto: Emma Rose

A transient male – who had his whole hand ripped off by another male – making his way into an urban troop in Umhlanga Rocks. Transient males suffer abnormal, serious injuries when competing for resources in areas where their natural habitat has been encroached on by human development. These monkeys have no option but to turn to humans to survive. The obvious solution to this problem would be protective legislation that is actively enforced, as opposed to the current nature conservation laws which allow these species to be persecuted with a range of extremely cruel consequences.

WHEN BABOONS/MONKEYS ARE RAIDING YOUR HOME.
The first question to ask yourself when you feel that your wild neighbors are crossing boundaries, entering your property or home and taking what you feel should belong to you, is “what is attracting these baboons/monkeys here?”
Once you have discovered whether it is an exotic fruit tree, your compost heap, black garbage bag or the fruit bowl left on your kitchen table, you then have the choice to remove the attraction. The answer to avoid having your property raided by baboons/monkeys is really as simple as that.
While it is true that a troop will check out your property if your neighbor if feeding them, this should not pose a problem if your property consistently offers no attraction as the troop will move on quickly after repeatedly learning that hanging around your property is a waste of valuable time.
The choice only becomes complicated when residents feel that practicing tolerance and erecting baboon/monkey proof deterrents is an inconvenience. However, those of us who do this are offered the privilege of living with these wild primates in a harmonious way.

HOW HUMANS ARE DAMAGING TROOP STRUCTURES:
It is mostly the males in baboon troops that are targeted by humans which causes a skew in the male/female ratio that impacts on all that is reliant on this. One mistake we make, when understanding the way in which we contribute to the dysfunction of healthy troop structures is to assume that only the physical impact matters. To ignore the complex psychological components necessary for wild primate species that are based on social relationships, is to deny a crucial element that is integral to a healthy bio-diversity. An example is to make the mistake of assuming that our baboon populations are healthy simply because we see “lots” of individuals in a troop. The correct manner to assess the health of a baboon or monkey troop is to observe the ratio of adult males to females and then to note this in relation to the sub adults, juveniles and infants. A healthy baboon troop will have one adult male to three or four adult females. Male baboons enter sub-adulthood at about 6 years old and become adult at the age of ten, while females are sexually mature around the age of five years old. On average a male baboon will leave his troop for the first time around the age of seven years and is considered to be a sub-adult at this age as opposed to an adult male.

THE SINGLE MALE THAT RAIDS YOUR PROPERTY:
Residents who come across single male baboons or monkeys on their property often mistake them to be “rogue” males. There are a couple of reasons why you may find a single male baboon on your property but the most common one is that these males are young teenagers who may have left their troops to find a new one for the very first time. Males generally leave their troops to find new troops about five times in their lives. These single males are correctly termed “transient” or “dispersing” males. It can take months for these males to integrate into a new troop and during this vulnerable stage of solitude, they may well resort to relying on humans for easy food sources. This is a temporary stage. It’s important for us to be patient until these single males have integrated into new troops and once this has occurred they will follow the new group’s lead.

Pubescent primate males dispersing into new troops do not only face a temporary time of physical challenge but also one of psychological challenge; for pubescent males, these necessary lessons bring a physical and psychological strength that is not only needed for the individual but the whole troop in the future. With all the added unnatural risks these males face due to human intervention, they sometimes ironically seek protection in human areas where they have been led to believe they may find it due to humans feeding them by hand. Puberty is a time of exploration and learning for these young males who have yet to grasp the full maturity needed when adult. As sub-adults, they are also more likely to be naïve about the dangers humans present.

These young males, having left the protection and guidance of their birth group are tested for the first time in many ways. Without the protection of the group, they are exposed to predators and other difficult elements of the wilderness. Not only are they at risk from predators but their new troop is likely to be hostile until the individual has formed bonds – this can take a few months.

Sometimes these males are not accepted at all. This is especially true in areas where baboon populations have been severely damaged by human intervention, causing destruction to the fragile social system required for a healthy cohesive group.

Human areas full of abundant unnatural food sources that also have a scarcity of threatening predators are an obvious attraction for wild primates suffering undue risks. But as these primates have a strong understanding of territorial boundaries, it is the mixed messages that humans themselves give that allow these species to assume they are welcome. As the male is left without troop guidance, he may resort to the temptation of new food sources and enter onto human properties where he will at first be respectful of the territorial boundaries but once invited in, will push those boundaries and attempt to raid.

Dispersing males are alone; without grooming partners that contribute to their physical and mental health that generally keep parasite infestation at bay.

Robert Sapolsky – primatologist and neurologist – observed that during this period, the accumulated stress in transient males contributes to parasite infestation as the immune system becomes relatively weak. Once the individual joins a group, his health balances out again.
This once again illustrates how fragile a period this is for dispersing males.

BABOON BEHAVIOUR IN THE CAPE PENINSULA:
In the Cape Peninsula, dispersing male baboons are unable to reach new troops as development has cut them off from doing so. Although the “bad” behavior of these baboons is highly publicized, it needs to be recognized that their behavior does not represent the behavior of baboons in other parts of Southern Africa. Their behavior is a result of being cut off by human development, being forced to compete with humans for resources and being fed by hand. Unfortunately, due to ignorance, the pucli all too often buys the sensationalist view presented by the media and not only exaggerates the negative behavior of the Cape Peninsula baboons but also gives the public the false impression that this behavior is the norm for baboons everywhere.

WHAT CAN RESIDENTS DO TO CO-EXIST HARMONIOUSLY WITH BABOONS/MONKEYS?
Residents need to practice consistency in their approach to demonstrate that it is unacceptable for wild primates to enter their properties. It also helps to have baboon/monkey proof homes and to ensure that no attractions – especially garbage – are on display. Please see our information on how to co-exist with wild primates. In special cases, alternative foraging sites can be used if done correctly (see our information on how to do this responsibly.
In time, with the resident’s patience, tolerance and understanding, the transient male will move on into his new group and if he has learnt worthwhile lessons (not to push territorial boundaries) from his human neighbors, he will carry these lessons with him. In this way residents can contribute to the future of healthy monkey and baboon troops.seed disperser

WHEN MONKEYS/BABOONS ARE RAIDING YOUR PROPERTY:
Vervet monkeys or Chacma baboons might visit your home regularly because you are on their foraging path. They will search for food in your garden and unfortunately, sometimes in your home. Many wild primates are being pressurized by development, and are genuinely hungry because they have lost their natural food source in a short space of time. However, some tend to forage in houses for food,
because the food found there represents the same nutritional value as a whole day’s worth of foraging and offers an easier solution, especially for those faced with excessive survival challenges in the wild.

Many people cannot resist the temptation of feeding wild primates, and in spite of legislation, education and signage, humans still feed which helps when done responsibly and creates problems when done irresponsibly.

It is important for us to acknowledge that there are also people who feed them for the wrong reasons – to lure them for the capture of their babies for the pet trade or to injure or kill them.

It is for this reason that we request that if you feed monkeys or baboons to deter them from raiding your home or to help them obtain food they can no longer get in their damaged natural environment that you do so in a responsible way.

HOW TO FEED RESPONSIBLY:

The photo below shows primates in a sanctuary utilising a home made seed disperser. This method could also be used to keep a single wild male baboon distracted from raiding your home if the following guidelines are used. It is however, better to use an old strong bucket or buoy rather than a road cone.

HOME MADE WILD BABOON DISPERSER MADE FROM OLD BUOY
For the single male raider.

SUPPLEMENTARY FOODS FOR VERVET MONKEYS and CHACMA BABOONS:
The concept of Feeding Stations is a sensitive issue as Nature Conservation authorities are pressed by certain sectors of society to reject this option because of the enormous amount of damage that has been caused to wild primates due to people feeding these animals incorrectly (by hand) until the primates learn to generalise about humans, and assume they can enter human areas and take foods from residents.

Because feeding these animals has caused so much disruption between residents and wild primates, it is illegal to feed baboons/monkeys in some areas in South Africa. However, when feeding stations are established correctly it has been proved to offer a workable solution to the problem of raiding. As far as the legal aspects are concerned, feeding by hand is certainly disruptive and against the law. A feeding station similar to a bird feeder, whereby humans are not associated with the food is no different to displaying an exotic fruit tree in your garden. Residents who feed wild animals in spite of being warned not to, and in spite of the laws that discourage this practice, are encouraged to rather do it according to responsible guidelines.

WHY FEEDING STATIONS?
However much we would like to believe that it is natural behaviour for wild primates to eat natural foods that grow far from human built up areas, the fact remains that we have encroached on their ancient habitats, created habitat loss and ensured a situation whereby we now are forced to co-exist with wild animals in many of the areas we have taken over.

Monkeys and Baboons are highly adaptive and adapt their behaviour to the environment they find themselves in. When a human environment has been forced on them, they simply learn to adapt to it, hence the raiding of human food they find placed along their ancient foraging paths. Our gardens are often full of exotic fruits, vegetable gardens, compost heaps and garbage dumps which not only offer a quick tasty food source but if we don’t protect these food sources and actively show wild animals they have no right to come close right from the very beginning they start to work out a relationship with us, they will assume we are inviting them to help themselves.

WHAT DOES A FEEDING STATION DO?
A feeding station is established in a way that keeps the wild primates away from our homes yet offers these wild animals an alternative food source.

Feeding stations do NOT create a new unnatural food source as is often argued. They replace the unnatural food sources that residents are already providing. (exotic fruit, vegetables compost, good food, bird seeds etc.

PRIMATES AFRICA in KZN is an organisation that has done extensive research – spanning at least a decade – into the establishment of feeding stations in areas where human homes were regularly raided by vervet monkeys.

They found that when done correctly;
–        Feeding stations were only utilised by the monkeys at times of the year when their natural food sources were very low and the monkeys went back to feeding in the wild when natural foods were available.
–        Populations did not increase due to the supplementary feeding.
–        The erection of feeding stations ensured a great decrease in raiding amongst the vervets.

DON’TS
The first golden rule is never to allow the monkeys to associate humans with food. If they do, they will think all humans are friendly and will be in serious danger from hunters and animal abusers. With time, they could expect you to give them food, and when it is not forthcoming, they can demand it from you by jumping up, or even raising eyebrows in a threatening manner. They are very unlikely to attack, but they will frighten people who are not familiar with them, thus endangering their own lives.

Never feed monkeys or baboons by hand. Monkeys are so graceful when they take food from your hand, but, unfortunately, they will also think its OK to take food from little children who are not offering them food. The child could refuse to release the food, thus resulting in a tussle between child and monkey where the monkey might nip the child to force the child to release. Monkeys are at an even greater
risk from abusers if they trust people to the extent that they will take food from their hand.

DO’S
Correct quantities of food. If you are feeding monkeys and they arrive Every day at about the same time for their food or play around waiting for their food, you are making them dependant on the food you are providing. While waiting, they can annoy neighbours and could become a problem to you or your neighbours if no food is put out. In this case, we suggest that you reduce the quantity of food, gradually, until they come and check but no longer wait. You will find that the correct quantity put out for a troop, will approximate a generous bird
feeder. They will appreciate your offerings, but move on to forage in the natural way.

Please ensure that the feeding site is placed away from your house and the neighbours house. If you feel that they might require more food than you are offering because their habitat is destroyed or there is a drought etc. then encourage other people in your neighbourhood to do the same. The monkeys will soon learn which gardens can be visited and which gardens to avoid and will not ‘camp’ at any particular site. Quantities can be varied at different times of the year, but ensure that any variation is a gradual process

ESTABLISH SECURE FEEDING AREAS.

There are 2 types – artificial feeding sites for short term provisioning and natural feeding sites for long term
provisioning.

Artificial feeding sites. After development of an area, the natural food available to monkeys and baboons can be significantly reduced, causing regular intrusion into houses for food. This problem can be alleviated by the community, by establishing a community feeding station or stations. Feeding stations are also useful for residents living near natural bush who experience problems with monkeys during winter.

A small amount of food can be placed in, preferably, two or three secure sites, away from homes and in natural areas. The reason it is necessary to have a few sites erected for one troop is because wild primates eat according to a strict hierarchy and on feeding station will only allow those at the top to eat, causing the rest of the troop to go hungry. Try to ensure that each site is out of sight of the others so that high ranking individuals do not hog the whole lot.

These sites must be carefully chosen, as they must not be on the boundary of the territories of 2 troops (this causes inter-troop aggression which is more likely amongst the more territorial vervet than the chacma.) and must not be in areas vulnerable to hunters or people who will eat or poison their food.

The food placed at these sites should be similar to the food placed at birdfeeders in gardens. We suggest that there be at least 4 people participating in the provisioning, so as not to make the task onerous and allow for people going away on vacation or relocation. The food provided must be sustainable, economically, so ensure that the food put out is not too expensive.

Donations cannot be relied on. Suggested food: nuts, pumpkin, gem and butternut seeds for protein, brown bread, dried mielies or crushed mielies, sunflower seeds for seed starch and protein, yellow vegetables, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, fruit and peels of vegetables or fruit for vitamins, starch and sugar.

NATURAL FEEDING SITES.
It is possible to encourage monkeys away from houses by planting indigenous feeding trees and exotic fruit trees, such
as paw paw’s, mangos etc. in the correct areas. This is important for the long term well-being of the monkeys. Preferably trees must be planted away from your house or neighbours’ houses and, if possible, form a continuous avenue of trees for the monkeys to move through. Any natural areas in your neighbourhood should be planted up with indigenous feeding trees. These could become nesting and feeding areas for monkeys away from houses

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Re-directed Aggression – The Primate Way

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TAU – THE SURVIVOR:

A young baboon of 3 years old has been confirmed to be shot by a high calibre fire arm after being treated by local vet Magdalena Braum of Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre. The bullet entered from the back of the shoulder, shattered the bone, then entered and exited his opposite hand.

The baboon had managed to keep up with his troop for about ten days in spite of his agonizing, extensive injuries until Thursday morning, the 10th of October when he stayed alone in the forest while his companions left for their daily foraging route.

Around 10 am, the wild baboons arrived at the Darwin Primate Group. My concern magnified as I imagined him dying alone – either slowly or with the aid of a predator –  somewhere in the vast forest that surrounds us.  Thankfully, my cell phone rang as this thought crossed my mind; Sharon Armour who lives on a nearby farm had read about the case online and had noticed the injured baboon outside her home.

Without this fortunate twist of events, he may never have received the help he needed.

I found him weakened –  hidden in thick bush –  when he called for his troop, then sat with him for nearly an hour while we waited for assistance from Jared Harding and Magdalena Braum who kindly took off some time from their demanding work schedule to ensure the juvenile survived.

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Photo: Jared Harding

Ex-rays showed that  a bullet had penetrated the baboon’s hand, then journeyed in and out of the opposite shoulder, shattering the bone. This is the fourth high profile victim from our wild, resident baboon troop since June 2013

The question that strikes me is; does this point to an act of redirected aggression by a human primate or is it mere “co-incidence”?

Re-directed aggression is practiced commonly amongst indigenous wild primates. Human primates however are reputedly capable of controlling their primal drives as a result of being “civilised” and “humanised”.

DOUG, MATT AND PACINO – MISSING IN ACTION:

Almost a month has passed since I last saw adult male of the wild troop – Pacino – who became well known and loved for his numerous adventures in The Crags, Western Cape. Pacino and Bud had settled into a mutual friendship with Pacino finally accepting Bud’s alpha status after many months of conflict. Although there is a slight chance that Pacino had decided to disperse, the dynamics of this troop had shown no sign of that being an option.(https://darwinprimategroup.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/pacino-life-of-a-dispersing-male/)

Pacino had sought out help for various injuries at the Darwin Primate Group on numerous occasions during the years. And because this troop are persecuted by residents in the area, they have come to regard the DPG as a safe haven to visit at times of need.

Some of Pacino‘s injuries that we helped him survive during the last year:

1beae-pacsnarenovPacino with a snare around his neck outside my home. 

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Pacino undergoes a three hour operation after suffering injuries to his arm during a fight with alpha male, Bud.

ae62d-pachomesnarePacino leaves the trap once we return home from the vet.

1044108_609666599053025_1659545364_nPacino lying down at the DPG in obvious pain after his ribs were pierced during a fight with Bud.

998356_615653365121015_1037058337_nPacino recovers for a week at Tenikwa after Dr Braum treats his injuries.

1094506_10201626220958813_1808801371_oBud showing off his weapons

Pacino’s mysterious disappearance – during September 2013 – followed his close friend – Matt’s – alleged death. We were notified by a witness that Matt had been shot while running across a field. He was accompanied by Pacino at the time. Matt’s disappearance occurred soon after  we publicized the brutal killing of his closest friend Doug who had died in an unspeakably cruel manner during June 2013.  Doug had been lured into a chicken cage, stabbed to death with sticks and then eaten according to witness reports.

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Photo: Anna Wood

Adorable Matt poses for volunteer, Anna Wood. June, 2013.

Since May 2012, when an article appeared in the Huffington Post after   local police had been approached about the regular gun shots fired by neighbors, the Darwin Primate Group has been the target of anti-baboon residents in the area as can be seen in this blog: https://darwinprimategroup.wordpress.com/farmers-vs-wildlife/

On the 8th October, soon after I arrived home, the wild troop of baboons slowly made their way onto the property..

I quickly scanned the familiar faces to check everyone was okay. Ah-ah-ah-ahah!! An unmistakable anxiety-ridden voice expressing intense physical pain was coming from the bush.  A young juvenile looked straight at me from behind a rotting yellow wood.

I crept closer, anticipating yet another injury.

Uncharacteristically, he lifted himself on to his back legs and moved off –  upright – with one arm swinging in an uncontrolled manner.

I followed until he sat down, he looked at me crying, his eyes pleading. oct8

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Creeping closer, I noticed that one hand appeared to be shattered. The wound on the opposite shoulder was bloodied and hard to see clearly.

Lying down on the ground in a futile attempt to get closer, I called Tenikwa Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre who kindly sent their vet – Dr Magdalena Braum –  to dart the suffering juvenile. But when Dr Braum arrived the baboons, recognising the dart gun, moved off into deep forest.

We followed for some hours, then were forced to accept the young juvenile had no intention of leaving the safety of thick foliage. Hoping he would arrive the next day, and agreeing to be on call, Dr Braum left.

Relieved to see my young friend the following day sitting right outside my home, I lay down a few metres away on the grass and tried to reassure him while he once again expressed the pain he felt. This time I was close enough to recognise him as one of the juvenile males I’d named Tau. Having witnessed quite a few of the individuals in this troop come to us for help through the years, after being injured, it certainly seemed as if Tau was asking the same.houseTau arrives with the troop – 9th October, 2013oct9Tau exhibiting a facial expression and vocalisation I have come to associate with extreme pain.

Using various baboon strategies to convey my loyalty, while deterring other baboons away from us, he slowly began to visibly relax. He even shifted closer then lay  in front of me where I could get a clear view of both the hand and shoulder wounds. 9 octJust as I’d decided to call Magdalena the vet, the troop moved on, slipping one by one into the forest. Hours later, I could still hear their voices in the distance and assumed they would be sleeping close by for the night. I spent that night periodically waking up wondering how he was coping, wondering if he was capable of sitting with his allies in a high tree, if that was where they were sleeping for this night. After all, he no longer had the use of his hands…….himTau – innocent juvenile with his whole life ahead of him before his destiny was permanently altered by a gun toting neighbor.

Cross-Species Relationships – Darwin Primate Group

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The Harmonious Relationship Between Dogs, Chickens, Rehabilitated orphaned monkeys and Wild Baboons. For seven years, these wild baboons did not ever attempt to harm a chicken, free-roaming rescue monkey, cat or dog at the Darwin Primate Group. (The huskies in this video were rescued to save them from being euthanased by their people, and due to their high prey drive were a severe risk to small mammals.)

OBSTACLES TO THE REHABILITATION OF VERVET MONKEYS AND CHACMA BABOONS BACK INTO THE WILD:


OBSTACLES TO THE REHABILITATION OF VERVET MONKEYS AND CHACMA BABOONS BACK INTO THE WILD:– Popular misconceptions about the baboon and monkey that are perpetuated by inadequate and contradictory legislation.- Ambiguous messages conveyed to the public due to loopholes in legislation.
– Policy that does not allow these species to be released  beyond an arbitrary and scientifically flawed limit of 100km radius of  rehabilitation centres in the WC. This pointless limitation makes finding safe, appropriate release sites almost impossible in the Western Cape and impacts adversely on animal welfare.Scientists have argued that one cannot allow a forest monkey to be released into a coastal area for example. This hypothesis discounts the fact that the vervet monkey is one of the most adaptable species – third in line to humans and baboons – is therefore not species-specific and is entirely capable of adapting to a wide range of environments.- Policy that treats provinces as mini-sovereign states, and rigidly prevents these species from being imported and exported between provinces. Taking the small amount of rescue and rehab centres in SA into consideration, this law places great limitations on the rehabilitation of these primates back into the wild.
– An alleged failure on the part of provincial conservation authorities to consider the relevance of  scientific papers that dispute the issue
of genetic pollution.PETS
INADEQUATE LEGAL PROTECTION:
Contradictory Legislation:

In my dealings with members of the public, I have found that the contradictory message conveyed  encourages the public to treat protection of wildlife as nonsensical, resulting in these laws being widely disobeyed.
These  laws therefore directly impact on the large amount of vervet monkeys and baboons being shot, of orphans that result from this practice and of monkeys being illegally kept as pets.

POPULAR MISCONCEPTIONS:
Popular prejudice against our wild primates is one of the most influential reasons for the manner in which the public treats them. These misconceptions need to be educated out of our culture, not perpetuated by problem animal control attitudes.
One example of a common misconception – Rabies:
Fears that Vervets are carriers of rabies or other infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans are unfounded. Like us, vervets are primates – if they carried rabies, we would be carriers too. Any mammal is able to contract rabies though.According to Monkey Helpline of EKZN, the state vet reported that no vervet monkey rabies case has ever been recorded.
INADEQUATE SPONSORSHIP OF REPUTABLE REHABILITATION CENTRES:

Considering that conservation policies and public misconceptions directly impact on the
widespread abuse of these primate species, reputable sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres should perhaps be able to expect more support from the government in terms of sponsorship and a willingness to consider more protective legislation that is actively
enforced to ensure the work of these centres has the potential to progress in the best interests of the species and biodiversity.This is far from the case. To date, we have found that a number of “wildlife centres” or ‘sanctuaries” with commercial agendas are the centres that are most likely to be financially viable and flourish.

In short, conservation policies are encouraging the proliferation of commercially viable ‘wildlife centres’ where the potential for animal exploitation is strong.

This is far from being an ideal situation for the many orphaned and injured animals who need rescue and protection.
THE PRESENT REALITY:
There are over 600 baboons awaiting rehabilitation and over 700 vervet monkeys at the two most established primate sanctuaries in South Africa. The backlog of orphans residing at these centres is an indication of how severe the problem is and indicates:

-the lack of safe, appropriate release sites available, and the failure of conservation services to pro-actively promote and assist with, troop releases.

-The number of wild primates orphaned due to the popular notion that they are “worthless” animals

-The inadequate financial support offered by government.



SOLUTION:
The best answer to this widespread problem would be for conservation authorities to adopt a far more supportive role towards rehab centres, and to take animal welfare far more seriously.  They should also remove onerous policy conditions, and promote uniform and protective legislation that is strongly enforced by them.


This solution would ensure that this species are no longer persecuted, seen to be worthless and less orphans and pets would be the result. The pressure on present rescue and rehabilitation centres would be lessened and full release back into the wild would become far more viable.

  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Remembering this note I wrote a while ago. Considering our present situation and the many facets outlined above that plague most primate rehab/rescue centre in this country, we need to find a way forward in a manner that provides real, workable solutions that is in the best interests of the animals.
  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Some of you have asked why our free roaming rescued monkeys were removed by the authorities to be placed in cages (temporarily). The answer is: the fear of genetic pollution – to put it simply, the law does not allow monkeys that come from beyond a 100 km radius to be released here. The fact that those free roaming monkeys probably did come from within a 100 km radius is not accepted due to us being unable to prove their origins (i.e. the person who brought the monkey in to us could have been lying about the monkey’s origins).
  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Hopefully the above also explains why primate rescue in South Africa is not merely a conservation issue but is very much an animal welfare issue and should be approached as such.

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Farmers vs Wildlife – the Plight of SA Primates

Farmers vs Wildlife and the Plight of SA Primates