By Vanessa Papas: It was David Attenborough who said, ‘In the Baboon community, it is not how strong you are that is important, but who you know that counts’. Fortunately, a big male baboon who found himself running across the N1 highway and Witkoppen Road, wandering through parks and complexes in Fourways and turning heads in Sandton, Gauteng, had the very best animal warriors on his side. After tracking the baboon for several days, Cora Bailey and her incredibly determined team from Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW) – Zothani Mposula, Xolani Sibanyoni and Devilliers Katywa – managed to catch the big boy by trapping him on the ninth floor of a hotel room at The Capital On The Park after witnesses saw him ‘just chilling’ on the balcony. Darting the baboon was not possible as the risk of him bolting before the tranquiliser took effect and putting his life in further danger was too high. The baboon was kept safe overnight before being driven through to Limpopo province to a place of safety where he will be released.
Speaking to Bailey about the challenges her team faced in trapping the baboon, she explains: “On Friday we were notified that a baboon was wandering around Fourways. The phone was ringing off the hook with people not quite understanding how complex trapping a baboon is. It’s not as easy as just putting down a trap, or darting him. We knew he wouldn’t stay in one place for long and so we had to keep a close watch on where he was going and try to plot his next moves. We are still not sure where this particular baboon originated from. He may have come from the Cradle area and was moving along Constantia Kloof, or he might have been going in the opposite direction. Baboons can wander great distances and it’s a puzzle that worries me because there must have been a troop he intended on joining but just no way he could move safely to get to them.”
After several days on the run, the baboon landed up in the heart of Sandton. Clearly of good taste, he decided to climb the roof of an upmarket hotel and make himself right at home.
“This was our opportunity to catch him but we faced a series of challenges the biggest of which was that our cage did not fit through any of the hotel doors, so we had to send for our smaller trap. I knew the baboon wouldn’t be keen on going into a trap that small so my hopes for catching him were slim. The hotel was also very busy and there was only one empty hotel room,” says Bailey.
“The baboon was climbing up the side of the building and at one stage was even on the tenth storey. We put some fruit out (an apple and an orange) to try lure him. He took the fruit and lay on his back, chewing on it. We slid the trap into the empty hotel room – filled with treats and even a fillet steak compliments of the hotel and waited. Because you can’t see into the room from the lobby, we could only hear sounds of something being in the trap. We peeped inside and there he was. He is so huge. Honestly, photos of him don’t do him justice. He let out this huge ‘wahoo’, and it took my breath away. He was stressed so I put in lots more food which he occupied himself with. The hotel brought some beautiful linen to cover the cage and we were escorted down by security to our vehicle. He was kept at a place of safety overnight before taken to Limpopo early in the morning. He is doing well.”
Fourways: Baboo captured. pic.twitter.com/Rlc7uoXW8D
— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) November 11, 2019
Bailey explains although not an everyday occurrence, it’s not unusual for baboon sightings in residential areas. Baboons roam to establish new territory and search for a new troop to join. In fact, this was the second such sighting since a couple of months ago when another baboon was spotted in Northcliff. Baboons and vervet monkeys may look for new troops up to four times in their lives but sadly Johannesburg is not the safest place to navigate (as we can all attest to) and some baboons don’t make their final destination.
Bailey says the baboon is currently in the care of Prime Crew – a rescue organisation that aims to provide the best quality of life to unreleasable, non-indigenous exotic primates, and help spread the message of conservation of our indigenous primates of South Africa, and aid them in their struggle to remain free.