Delinquent baboons grab backpacks from hikers
March 09 2006 at 05:54AM
By Karen Breytenbach
Mischievous baboons with a taste for human food are taking scavenging to another level by mugging hikers at Steenbras River Gorge in the Overberg. Craig Clayden, who has been a hiker for more than 20 years, said a pleasant outing with friends turned into a nightmare when they had two nasty encounters with growling, backpack-thieving baboons.
A ranger had warned them two aggressive male baboons had been plaguing hikers. He warned them not to leave their food in the open and told them to keep their backbacks close to them.Hot from hiking, the group stopped to swim in a pool.
Another group had also taken off their backbacks to enjoy the cool water."While we were swimming we heard them screaming and saw a big male baboon grabbing food," said Clayden. He and a friend tip-toed to their bags, but a large baboon, flanked by small ones, suddenly came towards them and tried to grab their backbacks. "In a tug-of war-amid shouting, I raised a stick to smack (the baboon). He not only stood his ground, but moved towards us baring his teeth," he said.
After the baboons had rummaged through their bags at leisure, the hikers carried on, but 45 minutes later were faced by another troop. "A few minutes later a large male baboon with a deep gash in his left shoulder and fresh scars on his face, appeared above us," Clayden said."He calmly walked right up to Janine (Nelson) and took her pack off her back. I could not believe this was happening and was blown away by the show of bravado. "After finding nothing worth eating, he calmly walked over to me and took my pack."
The men in the party launched a "barrage of stones" that left the adult baboons unfazed. Too afraid to carry on, the group turned back.
Jenny Stark, of the Pringle Bay Baboon Action Group, said reports of delinquent baboons were on the increase. "In our area three cases have been reported this year. Barely two weeks after a child was attacked in Kogel Bay a group of hikers were stripped of their backpacks.
Yesterday the same thing happened to a Pringle Bay resident," said Stark. "The authorities say tourism in the lifeblood of the Overberg, but they're not taking the same precautions that are being taken at Cape Point."
More guards, baboon-proofed bins and the prosecution of baboon-feeders were essential. CapeNature's director of biodiversity, Kas Hamman, advised people to avoid eye contact, clap their hands and show dominance when faced with an aggressive baboon.
Jenni Trethowan, of Baboon Matters, a tourism initiative for hiking with baboons, said she had heard of "baboon muggings" only at Cape Point.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Times on March 09, 2006
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