• The management of wandering baboons on the Cape Peninsula has been a thorny issue for the residents and the city of Cape Town.
  • Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has added her influence to try to find a solution.
  • The City recently announced that it was abandoning its baboon management program.

While Environment Minister Barbara Creecy expressed hope last week for clearer responsibility for the management of baboons in Cape Town, SA National Parks (SANParks) have come under fire for “perpetuating confusion” about its legal obligation to manage baboons in the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

The minister’s proposal for “roundtables” between local, provincial and national environmental authorities – the Metro, Cape Nature and SANParks – follows the City’s decision to abandon the urban baboon management program.

He conceded that “managing baboons is not the city’s mandate”, despite spending several million funding the controversial program over 12 years.

READ | Cape Town Metro to drop baboon management scheme: ‘Animal rights activists won’

In an official statement on Cape Town Metro’s decision to abandon the baboon management program called Animal Rights Activists have Won, Albi Modise from the department said: “Minister Creecy has commissioned SANParks to work with Cape Nature and the City of Cap to convene a round table on the management of baboons and work with civil society.

“The challenge of baboons in the Cape Town metropolis is complex and requires cooperation between stakeholders, not a pointing finger.

“The purpose of the roundtable is to attempt to re-integrate a range of actors who have been alienated by current baboon management practices.”

Responsibility for the management of Chacma baboons on the urban fringes of the TMNP has long been contested by statutory environmental authorities. The dispute centers on the responsibility of Chacma baboons leaving the TMNP in residential areas on the urban periphery.

“SANParks has always recognized its responsibility for the management of baboons in Table Mountain National Park. By law, when animals leave a national park, they are the responsibility of a provincial entity or the landowner on whose land they cross,” Modise said.

But this assertion is not undisputed.

READ ALSO | Jane Goodall backs Betty’s Bay group’s fight against council baboons ‘paint balling, euthanasing’

“Absolute nonsense,” retorted lawyer Naude Visser, who acts for animal activist Ryno Engelbrecht.

In 2020, Engelbrecht forced the City to return the beloved baboon Kataza to his troupe in Kommetjie

The Buffer Zone Strategy for National Parks, promulgated in 2012 by then Environment Minister Edna Molewa, explicitly stated that “any animal escaping from a National Park into buffer zones other than the adjacent conservation area, the national park management authority must take all steps reasonably necessary to capture the animal; or deal with the animal in such a way that the public interest is best served and that any danger posed by that animal is avoided or minimized”.

“As long as the ministry continues to deny SANParks responsibility for wildlife outside of the TMNP, they perpetuate the so-called ‘confusion’ and conflict between local, state and national environmental authorities – they perpetuate the ‘confusion’ for avoid their legal obligation.” Visser said.

Modise did not specify which law makes “a provincial entity” responsible for baboons leaving the TMNP and Cape Nature denied such responsibility.

In response to why Cape Nature had provided Metro permits without a “warrant”, Zohra Parker said that “Cape Nature has no obligation to keep baboons out of urban areas and is not responsible for vermin. or waste management; nor do we have any legal obligation to the health and safety of city residents. We obviously advise and support where we can.”

DA’s Dave Bryant said Naude was “spot on”.

“If an elephant leaves the boundaries of Kruger Park and enters a residential area, it is ludicrous to suggest that it would be the responsibility of an individual owner or the local municipality to capture and return the elephant.

“For SANParks to suggest that individual owners must now care for rogue baboons themselves could have dangerous consequences for animals and humans alike,” Bryant added.

A few weeks ago, the city pulled four rangers from Tokai and Constantia, saying “emergency funding” had run out.

The move sparked outrage among residents of Constantia, as baboons moved through the area, causing property damage and threatening residents and pets.

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