South Africa

Shooting baboons with paintball guns is inhumane: NSPCA

Shooting baboons with paintball guns is inhumane: NSPCA

Cape Town has hinted that a baboon killed after it was shot with a pellet gun was the result of the withdrawal of support for the use of paintball guns by the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).

The city is now looking for the suspected baboon killer after the body of a male juvenile baboon was found dead with a pellet gun bullet lodged in its chest in a garden of a Simon’s Town residence on Thursday last week.

The city said an autopsy was conducted by a veterinarian who confirmed the cause of death was a pellet wound to the chest.

“The pellet retrieved from the body suggests that the wound was inflicted by a low-velocity air-powered gun (pellet gun),” said the city in a statement.

It is illegal to hunt baboons without a permit and the city said the shooter could even face imprisonment.

“However, in order for prosecution to occur, a witness statement and or evidence of the event is required,” said the city’s statement.

Mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt said her department was “concerned and appalled” at the incident. The city’s baboon population has grown from 350 in 2009 to 430 this year. The baboons have no natural predators in the Cape Peninsula, where leopards or lions no longer roam.

In April, the city euthanised a male baboon which had started leading a splinter group of baboons from the Smitswinkel Bay troop to raids on homes in Murdoch Valley near Simon's Town.

This was after the city said all other methods of deterring the male had failed and that he was teaching females and their offspring his renegade ways, leading to conflict with people.

“I encourage eye witnesses or anyone with knowledge about this incident to please contact CapeNature’s Conservation Services on 082 773 4278,” she said.

The city said the death of the baboon, which belonged to a Simon's Town troop called the Waterfall Troop, was an example of how dangerous urban areas were for baboons.

They said the NSPCA’s removal of support for paintball guns, used by city service providers to deter baboons, meant that they had no effective way of deterring baboons from entering the urban area.

The NSPCA, however, said that they could no longer support the shooting of primates with paintball guns as a means of deterring them.

“For many years, paintball guns have been used as a deterrent. However, times have changed and technology has evolved. Just because a practice was conducted years ago does not mean it should be continued today, especially when there may be alternative methods that can be used to achieve the same outcome,” said NSPCA spokesperson Keshvi Nair.

However, the NSPCA admits: “There are also no comparable deterrent practices against which anyone can measure the effectiveness of paintball marking.

“We take note that of the 'extreme disappointment' expressed by Cape Town’s mayoral committee member, Marian Nieuwoudt, for not consulting the city before the decision to withdraw support.

“We have taken note of the legal threats which the City of Cape Town have made against the NSPCA, and in following our mandate, the NSPCA will defend their decision should the need to do so arise,” she said.

According to the NSPCA, the city’s service provider uses paintball guns as aversion tools, among other more humane efforts.

“If the welfare of animals is prioritised by the city, as it should be, the terms of the contract, and the means to which deterrent methods are employed and overseen, should be a priority to move forward as a matter of urgency,” said Nair.

“The NSPCA in conjunction with the Cape of Good Hope SPCA have tasked Cape Town with setting up a panel to include interested members of the public, animal rights groups, animal welfare groups as well as CapeNature and the city to discuss a way forward with managing baboons in the Cape Peninsula,” she said.

She said they expected that with all the various parties involved a suitable programme may arise to implement in places where baboons were in conflict with humans.

“We are well aware that there are residents who are not particularly fond of primates entering their properties but this cannot justify cruelty inflicted on the animals by the city or its residents,” said Nair.

However, Niewoudt said that with a healthy and growing Chacma baboon population and with no alternative legal method of deterring the baboons, increasing conflict with humans is inevitable.

“The city asserts that baboons must remain in their natural habitat as far as possible. Seeing that the NSPCA does not recommend alternative aversion tools that are proven to be effective, it is unclear how baboons can be encouraged not to enter urban areas in future,” said Niewoudt.

She said the city’s Urban Baboon Programme which started in 2009 is undertaken in terms of three-year contracts with service providers and until now had the NSPCA’s support for the humane use of paintball guns.

“To date, the Programme included the using of paintball markers as an aversion tool, in combination with other efforts among which: education around waste management and limiting food attractants, the enclosure of vegetable gardens and composting areas, and the baboon proofing of residences. These efforts have contributed to the success of the Urban Baboon Programme for nearly 10 years,” she said.

The city said the NSPCA’s decision will have an impact on the terms and conditions of the City’s contract with the service provider. The contract will have to be reviewed in order for the City to comply.

“The city will also have to inform residents living in areas close to baboons’ natural habitat of the impact this decision will have on their properties and lifestyle. Furthermore, we now have to consider withdrawing the baboon rangers from the areas adjacent to the baboon troops’ natural habitat as there are no alternative tools available to them to keep baboons out of the urban environment. This would unfortunately result in more baboon deaths due to unlawful killing,” said Nieuwoudt.