Monday, March 19, 2007

Move it, yah big baboon! - or, scenes from the class struggle in South Africa...

Hah! Su casa me casa, it or not!

Think you have problems with the neighbors? It's Baboons vs. humans in South Africa!

On Cape Peninsula at the very tip of South Africa, urban development has cut off a troop of 350 baboons from territory where they used to roam free and forage for food - so instead, they now hunt for food in the trash cans and kitchens of the humans who have taken over their former neighborhood. Some days, areas in the Cape peninsula look like they had been the scene of a massive food fight, with overturned trash cans and shredded garbage bags galore.

Needless to say, the humans aren't happy.

Carlo Volbrecht, a home owner, said "They've been inside my house probably five times. They've defecated all over the place. They open the fridge, they take food from the cupboards, and cause damage in the process."

"Baboons broke through my roof, entirely destroying the ceiling, and entered the room where my infant son was sleeping," said Volbrecht.

Volbrecht and other local homeowners have formed the Baboon Free Neighbourhood Action Group, which favors either fencing off the baboon tribe or relocating them to a remote reserve.

Other residents want the government officials cull — kill — the baboons. Unfortunately, they're a protected species, so some residents have taken the law into their own hands. About 30 Cape Peninsula baboons were slaughtered in the area last year, either by shooting or by poisoning.

Of course, there are activists involved who disagree. Jenni Trehowen heads a group called Baboon Matters, which monitors baboon activity ( and presumably snitches on anyone they catch using forceful means to drive the baboons off their property).

"We have a fantastic opportunity to learn how to live alongside another species," she said. "It doesn't take a lot to adapt our lifestyle to that of the baboon. Keeping your rubbish contained...You don't have to like baboons. You certainly don't have to like bears or coyotes like you've got in America, but if you could learn to accept that they are here, and they have a right to be here."

She added, "What small steps do we need to adjust in our lives so that we can actually all enjoy the planet together, rather than thinking we are the dominant species therefore we own it all. I don't think it's right, we've got to change that."

Volbrecht of the Baboon Free Neighbourhood Action Group responded:

"We've been told by authorities not to let your kids play in the garden while having food of any sort. That's ridiculous," he said. "You can't have your kids not enjoy a cool drink or a packet of chips in your own back garden. I can't entertain anymore because the baboons have lost all fear of humans and as soon as food is around, so are the baboons....they don't belong among human beings. It's not good for the baboons, and it's not good for the people."

The baboons did not return phone calls asking for comments and declined to be interviewed for this story.

One of Volbrecht's `guests' enjoying as little purloined pasta...maybe Volbrecht just needs to expand his social circle a little bit!

I can't wait to tell Weekend Monkey about this one...

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