The baboons are back in town. You may sense a note of dismay in that brief sentence, and you are right. Life turns upside down when Bobby and Jane return to scrounge from bins and kitchens. Open doors and windows are a thing of the past, and barking dogs are the order of the day.
The first indication that the troop was on the way was a WhatsApp on the Baboon Location group – an essential means of tracking their whereabouts as they sneak like thieves in the night, soft-padded paws not heard as they roam in search of an easy way in. ‘Bad news, the troop has just crossed the road onto Slangkop, heading for Kommetjie.’ It was not 30 minutes before the first reports came in – Down Rubbi Rd; Village Place; Teubes; 2 massive baboons Somerset; top of Dreyer – they were spreading fast and in small groups of two or three individuals, even loners. On the roof, in the kitchen, chased out two – things were hotting up and the monitors cannot herd them back up the mountain with such fragmentation of the troop. It’s not as if they want to go back up. The new thing is to stay in the village on a nice high roof, rather than climbing up to the traditional crags where they slept in years gone by.
They’ve been away for about 9 months and it has been a delight to grow herbs, peas and the odd lettuce. A bumper granadilla crop has survived unscathed over winter, but they will find it soon. Yesterday was bin day, and they knew it. The biggest baboons can toss a wheelie bin on its side as if it were empty, and the impact releases the baboon-proof catches, defeating the whole purpose as a week’s refuse tumbles out to be picked through at their leisure. Bins could be heard crashing all over the neighbourhood while we waited impatiently for the welcome sound of the rubbish truck. That’s another thing that arrives without much warning and is gone after emptying the bin – if you keep the bin in until the truck is outside, you risk missing it altogether. So between the bin-pickers and baboons, Tuesdays are a bit of a circus in Kommetjie.
There seems to be very little solution to the problem of urbanisation of baboons, as they are subjected to cruel attacks by dogs and stone-throwers at the townships and more sophisticated weapons in the suburbs. At the moment the monitors do what they can with dedication and a tough day in the outdoors, but ultimately the baboons’ natural way of life was destroyed the first time a sandwich was offered from a car window by someone taking a Sunday drive around the Peninsula, probably 70 years ago. Will Man never learn?