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Urban Baboons in Cape Town Face Growing Conflict with Residents

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On the outskirts of Cape Town, a unique urban conflict is unfolding as chacma baboons, native to southern Africa, navigate their traditional feeding grounds now intersected by suburban sprawl. These primates, primarily dwelling in the hills, are drawn to urban areas in search of food, creating tensions with local residents.

Esme Beamish, a baboon researcher at Cape Town University, explains that the urban environment offers enticing attractions for baboons, including excess food, lush gardens, and accessible bins. Despite efforts to baboon-proof urban areas, the easy access to food means baboons spend less time foraging and more time socializing. However, this interaction leads to various consequences for both humans and baboons.

Conflicts have arisen as baboons encounter residents, their pets, and damage crops, leading to concerns about the baboons’ welfare. The proximity to dogs, motorcars, and electric power lines poses risks of injury or death for these primates. Skin conditions and dental problems have also become prevalent.

Local initiatives, such as introducing baboon-proof bins and fences, have aimed to mitigate the conflicts, but challenges persist. Some residents resort to using pellet guns, and in extreme cases, “problematic” baboons are euthanized. Efforts to reduce food waste and employ preventative measures have seen a slight decrease in baboon presence in the city.

To further address the issue, the city plans to construct additional fences along the top of Cape Peninsula and suburban edges, aiming to confine baboons to more rural areas. The goal is to strike a balance that ensures the safety and well-being of both baboons and humans. Conservation groups, such as Baboon Matters, support these measures, emphasizing the importance of keeping baboons in their natural habitats and preventing further conflict with urban residents.

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