Wednesday, May 26, 2021


 Dear Baboon Lovers,

            About 10 years ago baboons from mountainous areas rampaged through residential parts of the City of Cape Town, threatening people, damaging houses, badly injuring pets like dogs and destroying anything edible in people’s gardens.

People were prisoners in their own homes until the monitors, employed to keep them out of the urban areas were armed with paintball guns – not to shoot them, but just to scare them away. This worked very effectively and where I live near Kommetjie the situation went from having baboons all over our houses and gardens on a regular basis to virtually none at all. My wife even had the pleasure of twice having a big male beside her in our kitchen. Their canines are longer than a lion’s so she could have been badly mauled.

          Now the goody goods at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, who appear to have great difficulty defining exactly what cruelty is, have decided that these paintball guns that they originally sanctioned are actually cruel. This has made the work of the monitors, who are employed by a private company contracted to the City Council, totally ineffective. Without the paintball guns to scare these primates they just give the monitors the two fingers and carry on raiding homes and gardens just as they used to do.

          A spokesperson told me that unfortunately the City had no choice but to comply with this decision, as the National Council for the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, being the oversight authority for animal welfare, had withdrawn its support for the use of paintball guns on baboons, declaring this method “cruel to animals.”

           Helpfully Belinda Abraham, the Communications Manager of the Cape of Good Hope SPSA “clarified” the position by saying that the SPCA has not “banned or prohibited the use of paintball guns” but had merely withdrawn their endorsement of their use.  

          To show how mixed up the SPCA is about the use of these guns she added: “A method that was reviewed and supported previously may no longer be relevant, appropriate or humane now. The SPCA will not support methods that are considered inhumane and cruel or that have insufficient supporting information.”

          How many other inhumane methods of controlling animals has the SPCA supported or ignored for years before backtracking?

          The SPCA believes “there may be alternative methods” of dealing with the baboons that “can be used to achieve the same outcome, which have not been explored.” But as it does not disclose what these might be the inference is that if they do exist the SPCA has no idea what they are.

          However Ald. Marion Nieuwoudt Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for the Environment told me that as there was no effective alternative to the use of paintball guns they might have to withdraw the baboon monitors. “This will have an impact on the properties and lifestyle of residents living in areas close to baboons’ natural habitat as we anticipate that baboons will frequent these areas more often,” she said.

          Will this mean that some 50 or more people will be added to the already huge number of unemployed in our country?  People’s Lives Matter more than baboons but not in Cape Town evidently.

          The various parties will hopefully meet soon to sort out this mess that is entirely due to the SPCA’s incompetence.

          The mixed up thinking at the SPCA is not doing the baboons any favours either. Their numbers have increased from 350 in 2009 to 430 in 2021, but the way things are going they could soon be on the decline.

Jenni Trethoven, founder of the Baboon Matters Trust revealed on the Trust’s blog that when the Covid lock down began in March last year she was optimistic that there would be a radical decrees in baboon activity in urban areas, but the reverse happened.

No doubt because the baboon monitors were not working at all during lockdown or at a much lower level and baboon troops had not yet heard of the Virus.

Baboons, she wrote, have been visiting the village of Kommetjie where she lives almost every day since then and “sadly incidents of shooting at baboons with pellet guns, shotguns and paintball guns increased as did the number of dog attacks on baboons.”

Dogs attack baboons at their peril. Male baboons have ripped even the most ferocious ones apart causing thousands of rand in vet bills for the owners of those that survived.

In May a baboon belonging to the Simonstown troop was shot dead by a pellet gun and that was believed to be as a result of the withdrawal of the monitors. 

So the evidence is abundantly clear that what the SPCA is doing by classifying paintball guns in this case as cruel is having an affect that is the opposite of what the Society stands for. And is it going to compensate residents for any damage done by the bad behaviour of baboons?

In the short time since the monitors have been rendered ineffective a dog on our estate near Kommetjie has been badly mauled by baboons resulting in a heavy vet bill for the own. How many more times will this sort of thing have to happen before the monitors are once more empowered to do their job effectively?


Jon, a lover of baboons that know their place – in the wild not in our garden or our house.

P.S. Baboon lovers expect people like me and my wife to have desert gardens so there is nothing like vegetables, fruit trees or anything else that might attract them, bearing in mind that they eat just about everything and seldom come in just ones and twos. Bird feeders are also out because they eat seed as well and they will rip apart anything it might be in. Our little dog would have to be kept inside at all times especially when we are not at home and every opening window would have to have bars on it. Our house would also have to have reinforced gutters that don’t collapse when baboons swing on them. If the SPCA has its way this is what it will be like for a lot of us living in the City of Good Hope? We’ve had some experience of this before the advent of paintball guns and WE CERTAINLY DON’T WANT IT REPEATED.

P.P.S. Ironically while this baboon business was going on the City has been updating its animal-keeping bylaws to ensure that pets like dogs, cats etc are not a source of danger or a nuisance.



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