‘If anything goes wrong it is the baboons who are criminalised’ Jenni Trethowan


Activist Jenni Trethowan from Baboon Matters says City by-laws are needed so residents understand their role in what’s happening.

While many, including Professor Justin O’Riain, have criticised animal activists who made a case to the City of Cape Town that male baboon Kataza should be returned to his Slangkop troop after being relocated to Tokai, there are many who have expressed unhappiness with the way on which baboon management is implemented in Cape Town.

Jenni Trethowan has been on the ground following the events around Kataza and speaks to Koketso Sachane, standing in for Kieno Kammies.

She reported earlier this morning that Kataza spent the night on the roof of Pollsmoor Prison and this morning moved into the grounds of the US Embassy in Tokai.

She has just reported now that he has made his way to the top of Silvermine and she believes he is once again trying to make his way home.

I think that the whole thing has been really badly handled in terms of decision-making.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

RELATED: ‘Kataza was leading a splinter group of baboons’

RELATED: CapeTalk callers outraged at City’s removal of key baboon troop member Kataza

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Trethowan says Cape Town does have urban baboons and it needs to be properly managed.

What we really do need is to have far more education and by-laws so that residents understand their role in what’s happening.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

But she says this is currently not happening.

At the moment what we have got, is a situation where, if anything goes wrong it is the baboons who are criminalised. So in Kataza’s case, he has been identified and tagged as a ‘raiding’ baboon and if he doesn’t mend his ways he will be killed or relocated instead of being killed.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

She says, in fact, the entire baboon management programme needs to be reviewed.

Human related issues need to be addressed and not just blame the baboons the whole time.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

The Baboon Technical Team (BTT) guidelines state that any baboon who urban forages – which they term ‘raiding’ – 3 times within a month may be killed.

What is the solution, asks Koketso? He cites a possible problem being that humans have built far more in recent years in areas inhabited by baboons, while on the other hand, you have baboons making their way into areas that are densely populated.

Where do we strike that balance, he asks?

Trethowan agrees there has been increased human encroachment on baboon habitats but says there is a bigger issue.

Over the past few years, the management of baboons to keep them from entering the urban edge has had a sole focus on chasing the baboons in a very aggressive manner to establish this ‘landscape of fear’.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

The BTT ‘landscape of fear’ strategy to try and keep baboons out of human-occupied areas means the baboons are increasingly being confined to smaller and smaller home range areas, she explains.

They are kept under this incredible duress and stress of being paintballed throughout the day to keep them moving.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

She says humans throw away huge amounts of food and the baboons know this.

It would help hugely if all the residents made every effort to reduce attractants.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

But to go back a step, after all this long time, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years so I am really a tired old war-horse by now, there are still no by-laws that are specific to the management of baboon and human areas or interface.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

This would enable the education and enforcement of baboon-proofing protocols for new residents moving int these areas, she adds.

Tamper-proof bins are meant to be provided to residents in these areas by the City.

There are no baboon-proof bins available in the City of Cape Town….it is really hard for the rangers to keep them on the matter when the baboons know they can get really high calorific rewards by running down and grabbing them.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

A multi-pronged approach is needed for the management of baboons and the human-baboon interface, she insists.

We need a comprehensive management approach and the City needs to engage with all of its roleplayers. They cannot selectively decide who they are going to work with and who they are not.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

The current protocol systems need to be revised which criminalises baboons, she adds.

Trethowan is very unhappy with the way the City has managed recent events

I think Kataza has been found guilty on false pretenses. He is no worse a raiding baboon than any others in the Slagkop troop.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

Moving Kataza did not change troop behaviour in the Slangkop area, she says.

And the nonsense about the inbreeding. In 2008 geneticist Dr Tim Newman identified that we had a very small gene pool in Cape Town. That was 12 years ago. What has been there response to that? They have killed 80 breeding adult males. Now Kataza is under the spotlight he is accused of inbreeding. But you didn’t do anything about it over the past 12 years. It is absolute nonsense.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

She says it is unjust and unfair that this baboon is being held accountable for the flaws in the baboon management system.

We are waiting to hear what the final decision of the City will ben today and I sincerely hope that the correct ethical decision is made because it is wrong to leave this baboon in a stressed situation, not of his making.

Jenni Trethowan, Activist – Baboon Matters

Listen to Jenni Trethowan below in the audio clip:



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