Pumping hot lead into the head of a sleeping baboon might work in ridding your wine farm from a troop of primates causing wanton destruction including hungrily uprooting vines, stealing organic seed-loaf from restaurants and the non-consensual shagging of the farm manager’s spayed Labrador, Tina.
But as the farms of Constantia who stealthily deployed these assassins to do the killing are discovering, the public outcry has set-off another set of problems that are potentially more damaging than the unquestionable havoc a troop of rampant baboons is capable of causing.
The residents of Constantia, not known for their conservative approach to matters involving the infliction of pain, trauma and stress on animals wild or other, are going ballistic, kicking up a viral social media stink and calling for the boycott of local farms’ tasting venues and their wines. The last time such collective hysteria and fire-bellied calls for action were heard in this valley was back when the price of riding lessons was raised and that Range Rover centre temporarily ran out of spare parts.
That the baboons are a massive problem on these farms is undebatable. And I would like to believe that shooting them within throwing distance of the closest Constantia coffee-shop was the last, desperate resort. But is it?
Farms throughout South Africa have to deal with baboons, and there are some ingenious ways of sending the apes back to where they came from without putting bullets in their noggins.
In the Sandveld region of the Western Cape I have seen the pumpkin-trap work like a bomb on the family potato and rooibos tea farm. For this, you take a large dried pumpkin and attach a piece of rope to its stem, tying this to a heavy object or a pole. One then cuts a hole into the pumpkin, about the size of a tennis-ball. With a long knife you poke through the hole and loosen up the dried flesh and pips inside of the pumpkin.
Now you hide behind a ridge or a bush and watch what happens.
The baboon smells the pumpkin from a mile, and is there within a minute. Sitting next to the object, it looks around to ensure he is not being detected. Then the ape plunges his hand into that hole, grabbing the delectable pumpkin pips of which the species are so fond. However, now that his hand is a clenched fist, it cannot pass back through the hole. But your baboon remains unwilling to forfeit the fruits of his plunder, remaining clenched-fisted and thus attached to the anchored pumpkin.
Trapped through its own stupidity and greed, the primate succumbs to your advances as you catch and cage him, ready to be removed from your property with nothing hurt but its ego.
The eradication method that could work better in Constantia, however, is the one exploiting the species’ tight sense of community and oneness. This involves first catching or darting one member of the troop and rapidly ferreting it to a shed. Here you and preferably some colleagues hold the animal down and give it somewhat of a make-over.
This entails covering it with white paint – I have experimented with powder-blue, custard-yellow and bright pink, but for some or other reason white works best. From toe to ear you spread that stuff all over your baboon, taking care not to get any into its eyes for it will need those eyes to find its comrades. And these comrades have an important role to play in the whole exercise.
Once released, the painted white baboon goes looking for its troop to tell them of the strange ordeal it has been put through by those stupid wine-farming, land-grabbing, baboon-hating humans. Problem is, the other baboons are absolutely terrified by the sight of this strange white thing running at them. Dropping the illegally foraged vegetables or fruit to gather their babies, the apes run like the clappers to get as far away as possible from this pale ghost-like creature calling after them.
And the more the apes runs, the more determined the all-white baboon is to catch-up to them for fear of being kicked from his troop. None of them are ever to be seen again, and problem solved.
Constantia baboons are, however, a breed unto themselves. Used to the high-quality of vineyards and vinous products the prized region is known for, these apes in the mink-and-manure set have adapted certain senses allowing one to ensure their dissipation.
By simply setting-up a tasting table of bag-in-box wines and planting one high-yield Colombard or Ruby Cabernet vineyard, baboons are given the impression that things have changed in these necks of these woods and are becoming tres common. No Constantia baboon worthy of its name will be seen dead stealing a glass of Four Cousins Rosé or looting a hectare of vin ordinaire grapes from a 30t/ha vineyard.
Playing a Steve Hofmeyr or Pet Shop Boys CD among the vines can be added for special effect.
The troop will simply pack-up and go their own way, seeking newer esteemed grounds and disassociating themselves from the valley forever.