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'Kataza was leading a splinter group of baboons'

1 September 2020 8:58 AM
Tags:
Tokai
baboons
Kataza
Kommetjie baboons

If there was a cry of kidnap every time a baboon was moved we would have lost the species, argues ecologist Prof Justin O'Riain.

After Monday's discussion and listeners' concerns on CapeTalk about Kataza being relocated from Kommetjie to Tokai by the City of Cape Town's baboon management team, Human and Wildlife Solutions, the City of Cape Town suggested Refilwe Moloto interview UCT ecologist Professor Justin O'Riain.

RELATED: CapeTalk callers outraged at City's removal of key baboon troop member Kataza

What were the biological drivers for moving Kataza out of Kommetkie, asks Refilwe?

It id not just biological. It also comes down to resources, insists O'Riain.

Effectively what Kataza was doing was he was leading a splinter group - a small group of individuals, typically comprised of low-ranking females, and he was going off with them and sleeping separately from the troop.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

He explains this means the resources are split.

The City allocates R13 million to the management of baboons which is fantastic, as is the interest and care from the public which is good news for wildlife If the public cares and the City cares then that's a winning recipe.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

But the challenge, in this case, was that if Kataza was going to split the team, then the resources are half as effective, he insists.

Typically when an individual leads a splinter he gets removed and is put down.

In this case, I think the City got it right. He is a young male and contrary to all the reports, he has not sired any offspring. So if there are offspring there they are not his yet. There may be some in incubation but they have not arrived.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

A young make such as this is a perfect candidate for moving to another area, he says.

We wish him well. We really hope he makes a go of it and if he does sire offspring they will be genetically unrelated females which is a very good thing for the population.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

He says Kataza has been moved to an area where the population of baboons is far bigger and will provide potential mates and social connections for him.

The area is a much more productive one, it has got more foo. It's an area any baboon would really want to be...and there are lots of females.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

He responds to criticisms that photographs have shown Kataza isolated and alone in the Tokai area. O'Riain notes that it takes a baboon time to adjust to a new area and connect with a new troop.

It's never easy and the natural system is he would have been forced out by other large males from his troop, and when you go to a new troop it is difficult, It takes time to adjust.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

A baboon will usually pick up on those on the edge of the troop, says O'Riain.

Females have been watching him, females have approached him and that's good news.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

He says in nature it is always tough and form a broader perspective this is how all wild animals are managed from cheetah to rhinos and even wild dogs.

In South Africa, we have got small isolated reserves and to keep genetic health you remove individuals from one area to the other.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

If every time we did that there was a cry of kidnap or that we had removed them from their families, we would have lost those species from our small reserves already, so this kind of relocation is very tough for the individual but it is really good for the population - and if he makes it, and we really hope he makes it, it is very good for the genetic integrity of the population.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

We get invited to baboon technical monthly meetings and we are not paid in any sense. We from UCT do this as part of our social outreach as university people who are effectively funded by public tax.

Professor Justin O'Riain, Ecologist - UCT

He says their recommendations are not always adopted, and decisions often have to be made at a broader level and within economic constraints.

Listen to the interview below:




1 September 2020 8:58 AM
Tags:
Tokai
baboons
Kataza
Kommetjie baboons

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