Two dominant males of the notorious Smitswinkel baboon troop are to be caught and put down in line with a recommendation made to CapeNature by the Baboon Conservation Authority.

Force and Merlin are part of the troop in the Simon’s Town area known for raiding cars and stealing food from motorists and tourists.

“During the past two years both males have continually raided the Black Marlin Restaurant, a caravan park, several tents, vehicles and occupants, broken into houses, broken a house’s glass sliding door, broken a car window, and raided several vehicles and picknickers,” said CapeNature spokeswoman Liesl Brink.

City council vet Elzette Jordan says she has also found that Force and Merlin have become emboldened and dangerous enough to justify their being put down.

However, Jenni Trethowan of the Baboon Matters Trust says the proposal to put down the baboons has been “badly thought out”.

“Killing dominant males (the main suspects in car raids) is not working. In fact, it is compounding the problem. Every time a dominant male is removed from the hierarchy it creates a leadership vacuum. Eventually other baboons will become the troop’s new leaders. By taking out a leading male, you’re essentially opening up the opportunity for other baboons to start raiding vehicles.”

More needed to be done to educate people about how to act around baboons, while spot fines for people who did not comply with the rules could also be considered.

“Killing baboons is not going to solve anything.

Critics argue that the root of the problem is people who feed baboons or roll down their windows and act inappropriately around the troop.

Chad Chapman, a photographer who followed the troop for three years, said people encouraged the baboons’ behavioural problems, as well as those of Fred, put down in April last year.

Fred was a fiercely dominant member of the Smitswinkel troop, and attacked people who tried to stop him.

At the time Force and Merlin were also earmarked as problem animals, but the city decided not to put them down then as they were less aggressive than Fred.

The decision to put down Fred was widely criticised. Jordan said new measures to educate people had been put in place.

“Reports indicate that (Merlin and Force’s) behaviour did not improve. These two feel nothing about climbing through a car window and over passengers to get at food,” she said.

The measures included more signs and the introduction of a monitor to hand out flyers and advise motorists and tourists on how to act when the troop was in the area.

“I understand many people are upset when baboons are put down, but just wait until the day that a baboon kills someone’s child, then you’ll see a public outcry,” Jordan said.

She said she understood Trethowan’s concerns, but the removal of Merlin and Force could just as easily lead to an alpha male emerging to bring cohesion to the group.

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Stop Baboons being Killed in the Cape Peninsula.

The City of Cape Town and Cape Nature Conservation, instead of assisting them in their natural dispersion, or addressing management issues with residents who are responsible for the baboons losing natural habitat and adapting their behavior accordingly, have authorised the killing of these healthy, strong male baboons.

Baboons are a highly adaptive species who in this case have naturally adapted to the human environment forced on them. They are not predators who view humans as a food source but regard humans as another primate species with whom they are competing for resources.

Their reputation as “dangerous” is mostly exaggerated due to the many myths that have been perpetuated due to our fears. The media with its reliance on sensationalism all too often plays on this, keeping the public fearful and ignorant of the true facts surrounding this species.

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