Warning for sensitive readers – disturbing images below.
Recent fatal pellet gun shooting of a juvenile female baboon in Cape Town.
This week saw yet another peninsula baboon dying from senseless wounds sustained by being shot at with a pellet gun, highlighting the fact that despite numerous educational efforts and legislative measures, the use of pellet guns as a weapon to “deter” baboons remains common place on the Cape Peninsula, with pellet gun injuries remaining one of the leading causes of death for peninsula baboons.
90% of baboons that we x-ray (for any veterinary reason), show at least 1 metal pellet lodged in their body.
When it comes to their use, pellet guns, or “air guns” hold a perception amongst residents as being “mostly harmless” (and are even considered as ‘toy’ guns by some); public perception of the damage that these weapons can cause is not in line with the actual injuries that they can inflict both on humans and wildlife.
Make no mistake, the sort of pellet guns available from hobby shops and gun shops are high-powered weapons, who’s usage is regulated under South African law to which there are severe penalties for mis-use.
Even when fired from some distance, the pellets fired from these air guns can cause tissue damage similar to that inflicted by small calibre bullets fired from rifles and handguns. The potentially debilitating, often fatal nature of penetrating injuries from pellet gun shots, especially those to the chest, abdomen, eye, or head are well documented, and death from a pellet gun wound is rarely immediate. The wounds in animals we commonly see being caused by pellets are the sort where internal bleeding, acute blood loss, intestinal perforation and subsequent necrosis, broken bones and spinal injuries have lead to paralysis or a prolonged and agonising death.
Physical damage aside, there is also the very real legal implication that comes with discharging a pellet gun in an urban area that quickly puts you on the wrong side of the law when you decide to take a shot at something in your garden or on the street outside your house.
The Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 clearly states that (7): it is an offence to discharge a firearm, an antique firearm or an airgun in a built-up area or any public place, without good reason to do so.
Baboons are classified as protected wild animals in the Western Cape and shooting at them with a pellet gun can lead to prosecution, imprisonment, and the implementation of fines.
Nature Conservation Ordinance No 19 of 1974 states that firing a weapon without a permit to do so is a contravention of section 27(1) (b): Hunting a protected animal without a permit.
The applicable penalty under Section 86 (1)c is a fine not exceeding R80,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both such fine and imprisonment, and with a fine not exceeding three times the commercial value of the fauna in respect of which the offence was committed.
Then there is the Animal Protection Act No 71 of 1962 that outlaws any activity deemed as animal cruelty, where shooting and/or harming a baboon unnecessarily would be considered an act of cruelty. A fine of up to R40,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment can be imposed by the magistrate upon conviction and such conviction bears a criminal record.
In order for prosecution to occur, a witness statement and/or evidence of the event is required. If you witness an incident, video or photographic evidence is important but please report this immediately to CapeNature, law enforcement or the SPCA.
Important numbers to call:
- Cape of Good Hope SPCA:
021 700 4158/9 or 083 326 1604 (A/H)
087 087 4021 / 082 773 4278
- Baboon Hotline:
071 588 6540