Baboons: Practical tips for living in harmony with our simian neighbors- part 2

Very young baboonAs promised, this time I will look at things that you can do outside the home to reduce the likelihood of a Baboon troop wrecking your garden.

First of all you need to realize why the baboons are visiting your garden. They are primarily looking for food, and it is a good time to raise an often over looked issue here: the food source may not be in your property, it may be in one of the neighbouring yards. The baboons may just be using your property to get at the food, which is no consolation if they happen to destroy your garden just passing through. For an effective campaign to minimize the appearance of baboons on your property you must do it in conjunction with your neighbours: the more of the neighbourhood that participates, the more effective the effort will be.

The easiest and least costly way to keep baboons away from your property is to make it unattractive for them to visit. They are fighting a lot of natural instincts to enter your abode. It smells funny, looks strange and is fraught with danger. You can build the largest fence possible and put an electric wire all around the top, if you then put a big pile of bananas in the middle of your lawn the baboons will find a way to get to them, prompting you to make a bigger defensive barrier, effectively starting an ‘arms race’ you are likely to lose.

By far the easiest way to ensure that baboons find your garden of no interest is to plant an indigenous garden. This sounds counter intuitive, why fill your garden with the baboons’ natural food if you want to discourage them?

Don’t forget, the baboons are fighting their natural instincts in order to come onto your property. If they can get what is on offer in your garden elsewhere, where it is easier and safer to get then that is what they will do.

Indigenous gardens have other advantages too. They are much more water-wise, are a haven for bird species and are perfect for our weather patterns.

Of course, not everyone wants an indigenous garden, and there are other things beside flowers and seeds that can bring baboons into your yard. There is an increasing trend for people to have a small vegetable patch in their gardens. Unfortunately this is like a welcome mat to the baboons. If you want a vegetable garden and live in a baboon area then there is no option but to fence it in as best as you can. This does not mean that you have to turn the whole garden into a fortress, just the area where the veggies or fruit are growing. How you do this will depend on the size of the patch; a small area can be framed in, probably using a wooden frame and chicken wire. If your patch is a sizable proportion of the garden then you will have to consider fortifying the whole garden against invasion.

When fortifying the perimeter the same considerations need to be made as when we discussed protecting your house. The golden rule is that if you can stop a human getting in then you are a good way towards stopping a baboon from getting in. Don’t think in terms of deterring someone from getting in though- a metal fence topped with spikes will deter a person, but won’t stop them if they are determined. The main difference between preventing a human from getting onto the property and stopping a baboon is that the human will look at a fence and see that there is a danger of harming themselves by attempting to scale it; a baboon will have to hurt itself before it can see that. Barbed wire, spikes, broken glass and in some instances electric fences will all cause injury to the baboon before they realize that it is a bad thing to try. And if the reward for the baboon is juicy enough they may even keep trying.

Again you can look to nature for a solution. I know from experience that South Africa is blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to spiky plants; some of them have evolved to deter animals with very thick hides. An adult baboon is likely to have an intimate knowledge of thorny plants and is likely to associate them with painful experiences, thus giving them a wide berth. By working with nature instead of against it you will save a fortune, get a barrier that is going to be as effective as any man-made alternative and stand a good chance of keeping human invaders out as well (you would have to be a special kind of idiot to try and climb through a camel thorn bush!)

You can put the Great Wall of China around your property but it will be useless as a deterrent if you leave tree branches overhanging it. Make sure that all overhanging boughs are cut back, or, if the tree is on your property that there is no way for baboons to get onto the far end of it outside your boundary (again, you cannot keep the baboons out effectively if you are working on your own- this needs to be a community effort.)

Bins are another problem in baboon areas. I myself have watched the Simon’s Town troop decimate the bins at the naval yard on Runcimen Drive- it wasn’t a pretty sight. There are a number of devices on the market which claim to ‘baboon proof” your bin and maybe if you have market tested any you can comment on them below. The problem is that some of them will work and some won’t. Also baboons are clever and dexterous; given enough time and incentive they will work out how to get into the bin. When the bin is in your own yard you can of course make it impossible to get into. Baboons are resourceful but they haven’t worked out how to pick locks yet. The vulnerable time is rubbish day, which is when the baboons are likely to visit the bins. This is again where collaboration and team work can come into it. Do you or one of your neighbours work from home? Is there a maid or gardener in the surrounding houses? If so you can coordinate that the rubbish only goes out onto the road as the bin men arrive, which is much more likely to result in a baboon free refuse day. Also, the cooperation of the council could be sought to ensure a regular time for collection.

Pets can be another source of attraction for baboons. Although a baboon may think twice about coming onto a property patrolled by a large dog; a large, male adult baboon may give any domestic dog a good fight, and the result may be very bad for both animals. Again, it is down to what incentive the baboon has to enter your property and whether the rewards outweigh the risks. The reason that pets may attract baboons is their food and water. Dog food left outside, a water bowl, rabbit food, pet treats and even chicken feed are all tasty tit bits to supplement your diet with if you are a baboon. Again, it may be a neighbours pet that is causing the infraction which is why your efforts need to be community wide.

We have all chosen to live in a very beautiful part of the world which is rich in nature’s bounty. Such privilege comes with responsibility. Eradicating baboons from the area could have untold effects on the surround countryside. With a little bit of planning and thought there is no reason that we cannot coexist with the baboons, reducing the negative impact that they can have, allowing us to further enjoy living in such close proximity to real wildlife. I am sympathetic to anyone who is the victim of baboon mischief but removing the baboons is not the answer when it would be far easier, and more beneficial to just manage the situation better.

That management does not mean leaving it to organizations such as Baboon Matters and Table Mountain National Parks, although they must form part of the solution. The true answer lies with the residents who come into contact with these wild animals on a regular basis. We need to preserve what remains for future generations because it doesn’t seem right that we should leave them a planet bereft of diversity.

7 thoughts on “Baboons: Practical tips for living in harmony with our simian neighbors- part 2

  1. CJ says:

    I honestly hate this mentality! Remove anything that will deter them. I had the same feedback from NCC and Baboon Matters. I need to pull out my fruit trees and remove my veggie garden is all I get told and now the same here. What BS! Rather create effective programs that actually keep baboons out of residential areas rather than creating dull lawned landscapes or incredibly boring and heat creating fynbos gardens.

    I had a funbos garden and in the middle of summer you couldn’t go out. It was boiling hot. I now have a food forest and the air is soft with wildlife and insects everywhere, plus it is really cool. When I had my funbos garden all I saw was the odd lizzard.

    This is NOT a sustainable or scalable solution to a growing local and international issue around food security and increasing food prices.

    1. Russell Hepworth says:

      Well that’s OK, I honestly hate your mentality, so it balances out. Were you surprised to find baboons living in your area? You’ve moved into an area of outstanding natural beauty, with its unique flora and fauna, but it doesn’t suit your lifestyle needs, so you want the environment to be changed to suit you. Those houses were built on land that the baboons were foraging on. Now you want them to be kept out of that area, and access to all that easy food that you are creating for them, so that you can grow your veggies. The easier answer to the problem is for you to move to an area where there are no baboons that will threaten your food security, or make your summers too hot- plenty of parts of Cape Town don’t have baboons living in them- in fact, I’d say that only a very small percentage of developed land ever comes in contact with them. You got the prime location, you probably have some form of view, nice house, in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and it still isn’t enough.
      And what is not sustainable or scalable is the constant incursion by developers into fynbos wilderness areas so that people can enjoy living on the edge of the wilderness (and then constantly moan that they are living on the edge of a wilderness, because did you know, its actually wild out there!)

      1. CJ says:

        Wow, you are quite the hothead, Russel. Full of assumptions and seemingly very entitled. If you didn’t let your extremism blur your vision you would have seen what I said that I am growing food because of the prices and trying to create food security. The rich and entitled don’t do that!

        You also conveniently skipped over the lack of biodiversity created by fynbos gardens, which are heavily promoted, or the copy/paste approach by all baboon extremists that their solution is to pull out fruit trees and stop growing food at home. Biodiversity, which actually promotes animal inclusivity, is clearly not at the forefront of your vision. Very convenient.

        Your narrow baboon vision unfortunately removes the ability to see the bigger picture and the current or future state of the world. The small backyard food forest I have built has created an environment for owls, snakes, peacocks, frogs, dragonflies, bumblebees, solitary bees, predatory wasps, spiders, hadidas and hugely fertile soil, nevermind the highly nutritious food it produces. I list these specifically because they are hard to find in residential areas, or in nature, whereas this level of biodiversity is never found anywhere near dry, sandy, fynbos gardens. The REAL experts would see how this approach actually compliments native species by providing a cool environment with lots of living organisms and ecosystems that can venture out into native environments, benefitting it.

        Answer me this…how many species of fynbos get infested with aphids? VERY few if any. Now, go do some research and see what insects feed on aphids. Now, do some further research and see what insects feed on the insects that feed on the aphids. Suddenly, you are building up an entire ecosystem that is self-maintaining and fertile. THIS is what baboon extremists don’t get.

        Now, all of a sudden I must remove my entire ecosystem and homes created for these scarce creatures because some ‘experts’ think it’s the best thing to do. Well, these ‘experts’ clearly do not understand biodiversity!

        If you want to come with the ridiculous comment that baboons were here first then best the entire Cape Peninsula get wiped out because then we are looking at impacts on Caracals, Dassies, Owls, and many other endangered species impacted by humans. While you are at it, you might as well take it further and remove the entire Montague area for the impact of the Mountain Leopard. See how much citrus and food you enjoy then!

        These so-called baboon experts really are clueless, which is my point you conveniently overlooked. All these so-called experts say remove all fruit trees, veggie gardens and any form of biodiversity. Well, look how that turned out. Kommetjie’s main roads used to be lined with fruit trees and the baboons came in and feasted. Guess what, because of these so-called experts, all of those trees were cut down and removed and the baboons now just break into houses and are still all over Kommetjie. EPIC FAIL! By removing any and every food source baboons are going deeper and deeper into residential areas to find easy food. REMOVING FOOD SOURCES IS NOT DETERRING BABOONS!

        So, my point is this narrow-minded approach to just removing any and everything a baboon might like is very much spoilt child mentality. There are massive ecosystems way bigger than just a baboon, which baboon extremists seem to forget, or conveniently overlook. Experts have not found a solution for co-habitation. They have made it worse through exclusion, rather than integration.

        1. Russell Hepworth says:

          Wow, just wow! And I’m the angry spoiled child. If you don’t like my website, you don’t like what I have to say, go elsewhere. If you have created such a haven for wildlife, why are the baboons not welcome? Are they not a part of the ecosystem you are promoting? They are an inconvenience to you so you don’t want them around. And the comparison to historical human expansion that has led to loss of natural habitat due to poor understanding and greed surely should act as the warning, not the justification. Of course, the baboon management program was the best solution available, its now gone, whether for good or not remains to be seen, but the hard line approach to baboons, and the lack of understanding of their situation coupled with a lack of accommodation from the human invaders is going to lead to the baboons being eradicated from our mountains.
          And I don’t remember anywhere in my writing where I do anything other than suggest ways you can reduce the risks of baboons coming on your property, nobody’s forcing you to do anything. You seem to have found a natural way to manage your aphid infestation (which don’t infest fynbos because they are not part of that ecosystem by the way- so insects that feed on aphids are not found on fynbos- feels kind of logical…) and live with them, why not the baboons? This article was intended to give people a guide to ways they can live in a place that is regularly visited by baboons, not to dictate that thou shalt live this way and fore-sake all others. You’ve decided to take it as a personal attack on your life style. You think what I’ve said is horseshit, and you are entitled to your opinion, but in the current absence of a baboon monitoring program you’re going to have to find your own solutions- my fear is that one of those options, advocated by many who all chose to live in contact with the baboons, is to get rid of the baboons. Which is why there are no more Cape leopards in Montague, because that was the solution taken back then. And all it would take is for each and every household (not including informal settlements) in the Cape Peninsula area to pay R2 per month and we could have the best baboon monitoring program possible.

          1. CJ says:

            Now why didn’t you make your article about that – problem solving? Why doesn’t baboon matters and NCC promote that? I would gladly pay R2 pm. Heck, I would gladly pay R50-R100 pm to support them with an effective solution and so would lots of other people, but these solutions are never promoted. Always the same old solution of remove any and everything that feeds them, which is an incredibly ineffective system, as very clearly proven by how often ad how deep they are going into residential areas. My neighbour shoots at them with a pellet gun, and yes I reported them and law enforcement arrived. I am not against baboons in any way. I am very much against the approach of removing everything the world needs right now, localised ecosystems, home composting and cooler urban environments.

            I have lived in the area I am in for more than 10 years and we have never had baboons. Now, I suddenly have broken car windscreens with paintballs still stuck in them from baboon monitors, gutters replaced 4x already, car bonnet and roof scratched so deep its started to rust and window frames ripped off the walls.

            Yes, it is an amazing environment I have managed to create and after having 22 baboons in the garden at one time there was nothing left. Even the flowers were pulled out and not even eaten.

            Yes, I am trying to promote an increase in biodiversity and living gardens that are pesticide-free and produce food in time of incredible struggle, but it seems that every single baboon group is so fixated on removing any and everything that attracts them that they don’t see that it is not an effective solution. Baboons KNOW there is food, where it is easily available in a food forest or in a bread bin they need to break into a house for.

            This is my point all along. Keeping baboons safe outside of residential areas.

            You have strong opinions and so do I, but don’t take that the wrong way. If you were to create an effective baboon protection program then I would 100% support and financially contribute towards it. All I have been trying to say all along is that there needs to be REAL problem solving, not the same old approach, which doesn’t work.

            Show me a solution and I will be 100% behind you.

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