By Tred Magill
Cape Town – Cape Nature permits provided to the City of Cape Town for managing Cape chacma baboons have raised more questions about the legitimacy of its secretive R14m baboon management programme, and claims that Cape Nature has ’’legitimised’’ the City’s baboon operation with permits that are not intended – nor capable – of being complied with.
While Cape Nature has refused all requests for details of the permits, the permits were included in court papers, filed by the City in response to the High Court application of Mr Ryno Engelbrecht, to review the decision to relocate the Cape chacma baboon commonly known as “Kataza’’ (SK11).
The relocation of Kataza sparked public outrage and a petition with over 30 000 signatories, calling for the City Mayoral Committee member for the Environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, to return the baboon to his native troop on Slangkop, near Kommetjie.
Engelbrecht has alleged the City has no jurisdiction nor authority to manage baboons on the Cape Peninsula: “To my knowledge, no statute or municipal by-law exists regarding the management of baboons (or other wild animals) that authorises the first respondent to do so…
’’It may very well be the respondent(s) who took the said decisions were not authorised to do so and that they were taken illegally,” he said in his founding affidavit.
“The permit holder is not complying with the provisions of the permits and Cape Nature is not overseeing the implementation of these permits,’’ he continued.
Engelbrecht’s attorney, Naude Visser, said the City of Cape Town was using non-transferable hunting permits intended for use by members of the public, issued to a third party, to justify the herding and containment of baboons to areas under jurisdiction of SANParks; and to kill those ’’problem’’ animals that cannot be ’’managed’’ by its baboon management guidelines.
He went on to say, “Cape Nature has ‘legitimised’ the City’s baboon management operation by issuing the permits, in the knowledge that the terms of the permits are contradictory and not intended or capable of being complied with, so as to provide the City with cover to run its baboon management operation according to an environmental policy that has never received any public participation”.
The permits are issued to HWS for ’’hunting’’ and also ’’to keep in captivity for rehabilitation purposes’’, although, for the most part, the City’s baboon management activities are the herding and containment of baboons inside the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) and away from urban areas.
Numerous inconsistencies have been uncovered in the permits issued by Cape Nature:
The permits presented by the City are in fact issued to its service provider, Human and Wildlife Solutions (HWS), and clearly marked ’’not transferable’’, while it is common knowledge that HWS acted on instruction of the City, a third party.
An affidavit of Dr Ernst Baard, the executive director of Cape Nature, confirms that: ’’The City does not have any form of delegated authority from WCNCB in relation to the urban baboons of the Cape Peninsula.’’
Under ’’Special Conditions’’, the permit also names 32 additional persons, to whom the permit is applicable; mostly people related to the Constantia wine farms, where a number of baboons were killed in 2018.
The permit also raises questions about the area in which it is applicable.
Special conditions of the hunting permit specify “on/from a public road” and the permit to keep wild animals in captivity specifies the “area of operation is the Cape Metro BU only”. The permits do not appear to be applicable to the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) under jurisdiction of SANParks, where the baboon rangers mostly operate.
In the leaked minutes of Baboon Technical Team (BTT) meeting on 11 April, 2018, Deborah Winterton of SAN Parks confirms that: “Once baboons are on SAN Parks land, they are in a national park and then management is up to the managing authority of that national park.”
Under ’’Species and quantity’’ the number ’’0’’ is specified and then ’’Unlimited’’, so it appears the permit could be used to exterminate chacma baboons from the peninsula; which many animal activists fear will be the end result of the City’s programme. Cape Nature declined to offer any explanation.
The permit to keep wild animals in captivity explicitly states “for rehabilitation purposes”; yet special condition four explicitly states that “No rehabilitation will be allowed”. Once again, Cape Nature declined to offer any explanation.
The permits require the permit holder to “inform and arrange with their nearest Cape Nature Office to release any wild animals beforehand”, and yet Cape Nature have all denied any involvement in the decision to relocate Kataza to Tokai. When asked what action had been taken against the permit holder, Cape Nature declined to respond.
The permits also refer to the baboon management guidelines and Paintball marker SOPs, which are included as additional conditions, but which contradict one another.
The permit conditions state that “Wild animals… may only after you have written permission from Cape Nature be euthanised ….” This is also confirmed by Baard in his ’’Explanatory Affidavit’’, yet the baboon management guidelines state: “The decision to euthanise for management reasons is taken by the BTT in terms of the Guidelines.”
Despite these requirements, an email from the City’s Biodiversity Area manager, Owen Wittridge, on 1 July, to members of the BTT withan application to ’’euthanise’’ Kataza, does not request any formal approval and concludes with the words: “If no comments or objections are received by Wednesday 8 July, 2020, then the euthanasia will go ahead.”
Ironically, the response from Helene van der Westhuyzen of Cape Nature contradicts the permit condition, to suggest the City does not need any approval: “We have issued HWS with the permits to perform the task at hand, together with the guidelines. Thus they can carry on with the necessary actions in line with the permit conditions and guidelines approved.”
Cape Nature, SANParks and the SPCA have all denied any involvement in the decision or relocation of Kataza, thus exposing the BTT as little more than an informal advisory forum, without any authority to manage baboons.
The City’s attempts to keep the programme under wraps and out of public scrutiny is also revealed in the leaked minutes of the BTT meeting of 7 May, 2017, which reads: “The blanket agreement for no media is still in place and HWS is not allowed engage the media… Requests for filming have been received but there is a concern of negative media.”
Neither the CEO of Cape Nature, Dr Razeen Omar, nor the chairman of the board, Prof Denver Hendricks, responded to our request for comment.