First, it was Dame Jane Goodall – now, world-renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has come out in support of the Betty’s Bay baboons.
In a letter penned to conservation photographer Peter Oxford, who leads the Betty’s Bay Baboon Action Group (BBBAG), Attenborough expresses his support, saying he “fully supports” the efforts of the group to allow the baboons to “continue to roam free”.
He goes on to say, “the problem has been created by people attracting these intelligent creatures close to human habitation by leaving refuse and discarded food easily accessible, so there is surely a moral duty to find a humane solution to the problem”.
In July, the action group protested a contract awarded by the local Overstrand Municipality to Human and Wildlife Solutions (HWS), to manage the baboons troops in the area, because the municipality had neglected to consult residents.
HWS previously managed baboon troops on the Cape Peninsula for the City of Cape Town – and the baboon management guidelines adopted by Overstrand Municipality came under severe criticism from animal activists and the Jane Goodall Institute for “unnecessarily hostile tactics”.
Goodall is a world-renown primatologist, who won acclaim for her research of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania.
The BBBAG accused the municipality of a “one size fits all” approach, without considering that Betty’s Bay is part of the Kogelberg biosphere, a protected area which is a world heritage site and part of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme.
The guidelines for managing our baboon troop are “not in-line with the Kogelberg biosphere ethos”, said Oxford.
The group believe the baboons can be better managed if the municipality and residents removed the human food waste, which attracts the baboons into residential areas.
Residents in Betty’s Bay have recently joined forces with Cape Town animal activist Ryno Engelbrecht and are expected to file an application in the Western Cape High Court later this week to review the baboon management operations of both the City of Cape Town and Overstrand municipalities.
Earlier this month, the City of Cape Town capitulated to the demands of Engelbrecht to return the much-loved Kataza (also known as SK11) to his home range on Slangkop in Kommetjie.
Engelbrecht had approached the high court, accusing the City of animal cruelty.
Attenborough concludes his letter by saying he hopes “you and the community will succeed in your campaign to find a solution that unites the residents of this special place and respects your wild neighbours”.
Attenborough has a string of accolades to his name and recently released his latest documentary, A Life on Our Planet.
In the documentary, he suggests the destruction of the wilderness areas of the earth, which he has witnessed in his life, is a crime.