A Baboon Tale, with a Happy Ending!

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Most of the news stories you will read about the Cape’s baboons tell a grim picture for the future of this enigmatic species, but the Cape of Good Hope SPCA Wildlife Department continues to help our troops in trouble.

Shot at, poisoned, attacked by dogs, hit by speeding cars; the types of baboon injuries that the SPCA documents monthly reads like the casualty list from a war zone, not a peaceful seaside town where tourists sip lattes and admire beaded wire artworks, yet the Cape of Good Hope SPCA Wildlife Department attends to an average of 22 sick or injured chacma baboons per year from the resident peninsula troops. With this number expected to increase by around 57% this year alone, it could be said that Cape Town’s baboon population is in trouble.

One such recent incident involved an adult female baboon who appeared without her troop, lying on the rooftop of a home looking poorly. A wildlife officer was dispatched to go and assess her condition, and it was clear to him that she would need to be captured and admitted for further veterinary testing to find out what was wrong. She was barely moving, underweight, not able to keep up with the troop,  and shaking visibly at every movement. The other problem was – she had a 4-month old baby baboon still attached to her hip, and the demanding youngster was giving her no peace at all. A young baboon that age could not be separated from its mother without putting it in danger of being abandoned by the troop so it was obvious that if the mom was going to be captured, her baby was coming with.

Fortunately, the mom was easily cage-trapped by our experienced wildlife team working together with NCC Urban Baboon Programme monitors, and with her baby clinging tightly to her back, she was quite relaxed at the idea of a few days R&R away from the stress of the urban edge.

At the SPCA short-term care facility, mom and baby were admitted to a warm and comfy enclosure. After a good meal and a restful night’s night sleep, mom went off for x-rays; an idea her son was not happy with. X-rays revealed that she was carrying 9 intrusive air rifle pellets. She was anaemic and presented with gastric swelling, symptoms not likely to be associated with pellet trauma. She was immediately treated for toxicosis. Incidental poisoning is a constant threat to baboons and other wildlife that forage on the urban edge, where overflowing human dustbins and other unsecured waste offer a menu of high-calorie foods and sugary treats not suited to a wild animal’s digestive system, baboons are particularly vulnerable.

After 5 days of proper nutrition, tummy meds, probiotics and lots of rest in a stress-free environment, mom and her baby boy were given the all-clear to return to their troop. Together with the experienced rangers from NCC, the SPCA wildlife officers drove mother and child back to their range area and without any further fuss, allowed them to peacefully re-join the troop, looking and no-doubt feeling a little bit more refreshed after their SPCA “retreat.”

Update: mom and baby baboon have been monitored daily since release and we are glad to report that mom is doing well, she is clear of symptoms and regaining weight. Junior is now weaned but still keeps a close eye on his mom, now if we can just all do something about those dustbins. 

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA Wildlife Department is equipped to respond to all cases of sick, injured or compromised wildlife, including baboons of all ages, 24-hours a day, every day of the year. Contact the Cape of Good Hope SPCA on 0217004158/9 or email  inspectorate@spca-ct.co.za  to report sick or injured birds.

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