BABOONS AND CONSTANTIA VALLEY

 

This article is thanks to Human Wildlife Solutions (HWS) who have kindly allowed us to use material from their July 2016 report.

HWS are a private organization who are specialists in resolving human wildlife conflicts, from baboons raiding town to livestock theft and preventing shark attacks. They are a highly qualified team able to accurately assess a situation  and synthesize unique, non-invasive and non-lethal methods to resolve problems.

July is the coldest period of the year with the least amount of natural food available to the baboons when they typically try to raid town most for human derived foods (HDF’s). This month the baboon troops averaged the least amount of time out of town (98.1%) for the year so far, and HWS recorded the most hotline calls for the year, with 117 raid related calls.

Tokai and Zwaanswyk Troops
As usual for this time of year, the Tokai Troop foraged in the lower sections of Constantiaberg and around Porter Estate. Two adult males in the Tokai Troop raided together many times in July. They would leave the Tokai Troop, and run across Orpen Road, through to the Cape Academy, or nearby houses.

At the Cape Academy these two males found access to bins, or entered the hostels and kitchens to raid. Additionally, these two males liked to sit in the Mitzeeri Trees along Orpen Road and forage on the ripe berries. Chrysalis Academy was also a raiding hotspot for the troop this month, and the troop spent much of its time on the campus.

The Zwaanswyk Troop foraged in the same area as the Tokai Troop during July 2016. The troop as a whole, did not raid during this reporting period, however the alpha male raided heavily and targeted the Tokai Picnic Site. He mainly raided bins or tables laden with food – when he entered the picnic site, or approached a group, generally the picnickers would scatter and he would jump on the unoccupied table and help himself to whatever food was available.

Constantia Troop 1 (CT1)
The Constantia Troop 1 (CT1) used both sides of its home range during this reporting period . For the first half of the month, the troop foraged on the northern side of the mountain, in the stream vegetation below Price Drive. Here, the males took the opportunity to run past HWS rangers and enter Price Drive to raid. The thick invasive alien vegetation in this area made it incredibly difficult to see baboons leaving the troop and heading to the urban area.

On 2 occasions, a large number of baboons (approximately 20) managed to evade rangers and entered Price Drive. HWS rangers responded swiftly and the baboons were back in the natural vegetation within half an hour. The many fruit trees, vineyards and vegetable gardens in the Price Drive properties are attractants to the troop. 2 baboons in particular have entered homes in Constantia regularly in the past year.

They were both exceptionally bold, entered occupied houses and aggressively took whatever food they wanted. Due to their raiding history and aggressive nature they were euthanised following Wild Animal Advisory Committee (WAAC) approval. For a week in July, the troop moved to the southern side of its home range and foraged around the bike trails area. This area is far away from the urban edge, and hence a noticeable drop in raids was noted. In July this troop also entered Groot Constantia and foraged in the natural vegetation, and fed on barley planted on the farm.

On 2 occasions, it was noted that the CT1 troop split and slept at two different sleep sites. This is concerning as it is the behaviour that was observed at the start of the split in the original Constantia Troop last year.

Constantia Troop 2 (CT2)
The Constantia Troop 2 (CT2) was seen rarely during this month. The troop slept mainly at the Bike Trail Gums sleep site, or the Buitenverwachting Gums sleep site and was moved up and out of Klein Constantia or Buitenverwachting by the wine farm’s respective rangers each morning. This troop did not push towards the urban area, and neither the troop, nor any individuals raided this month.

Recommendations

  • On account of male baboons that run through to Firgrove Way, the Cape Academy was requested to baboon-proof its kitchen and hostels, by adding automatic closing gates which stay locked. Additionally, they should ensure that all bins on campus are baboon-proof.
  • Picnickers at Tokai Picnic Site should heed the warnings of SANParks and HWS rangers about having food out in the picnic site while baboons are at the facility. If advised to close the food up, it is recommended that they do so.
  • The Tokai Picnic Site fence should be baboon-proofed, by removing signage and trees that allow baboons to jump over the fence.
  • The invasive alien vegetation along Price Drive should be removed immediately. This vegetation is extremely dense and grows rapidly, and will soon require a huge effort to remove.

Population Data
There were nine births and five deaths in the managed population this month, which therefore increased from 404 to 408 individuals.

The area with the second highest number of hotline calls was Constantia. Most of these calls were in response to individual males raiding in the Price Drive area. There are approximately 13 adult males in the two Constantia Troops, and often they go raiding alone or in pairs.

Overall it is still pleasing to note that 82% of all hotline calls were simply reporting baboons in town and only 18% were actually reporting house or bin raids.

 

THE FUTURE OF CONSTANTIA IS IN YOUR HANDS

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