The con in conservation – South African legislation.

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Cape Peninsula in South Africa, primate populations are not monitored and assumptions are conveniently made using old, outdated data.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

oct9 Tau – a young baboon shot by dairy farmer – The Crags.

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.

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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.

  Surely this tells us that killing tactics do not work?1917810_209017116411_2095979_n

 

 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/

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.

palmhand

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.

matt (2)

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

oct82

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.

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.

"So heart broken this morning - our precious little Lilly, who was so abused by village people died last night.  We did everything we could to save her. I really hate those people, may God forgive me for that feeling, but at this stage, I am so angry, so very angry!!!" Rescuer

“So heart broken this morning – our precious little Lilly, who was so abused by village people died last night. We did everything we could to save her. I really hate those people, may God forgive me for that feeling, but at this stage, I am so angry, so very angry!!!” Rescuer



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.