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[OPINION] Letter from vet who treated Bolo baboon slams decision to kill him

22 July 2021 8:47 AM

Independent vet Dr Gina Du Plessis assisted the CGHSPCA and declared Bolo fit for medical release back to his Waterfall Troop.

CapeTalk digital editor Barbara Friedman talks to Lester Kiewit about the killing of Bolo baboon from the Waterfall troop and the reaction of independent vet Dr Gina du Plessis who helped treat the injured baboon.

Bolo the alpha baboon from the Waterfall troop in Simon's Town was killed by the authorities earlier this week.

RELATED: Bolo of Waterfall Troop, another baboon killed by City of Cape Town

On Friday 9 July, it was observed that Bolo was struggling to navigate, and NCC Wildlife Services, who holds the baboon management contract with the City, guided the seemingly blind baboon into a cage in the Simon's Town dockyard and took him away in their van stating that he was unable to see.

Bolo was then taken to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA for assessment.

Under the compassionate care of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, Bolo was examined and an external vet was brought in to provide further advice. While the vets agreed his left eye had become permanently damaged over a number of years, his right eye was treated and after a clinical examination on Monday announced Bolo was fit to be returned to his natal troop.

But this was not to be. Instead, CapeNature collected Bolo from the CGHSPCA and had him killed.

After years of helping wildlife, Cape Town vet Dr Gina du Plessis has written a scathing letter expressing her anger at the decision by CapeNature and the City of Cape Town to have Waterfall troop alpha Bolo killed after he had recovered from his eye injury.

Despite the vets and associated Cape of Good Hope SPCA staff working so hard on his recovery and declaring him fit for release back to his troop, the authorities chose to kill him in terms of the BTTG3 protocols.

One of the key points she makes is the level of cruelty she believes transpired after caging Bolo for an extended period at the SPCA and then killing him anyway.

As she states in her letter below: 'If we had known this was to be the cold calculated completely unacceptable attitude, easy solution, and action of CapeNature, we would have euthanized him humanely on the first day of examination, while under general anaesthetic 9 days prior and saved this animal further suffering, pain and stress.'


Bolo showed no problems with masticating/eating his food and his faeces showed well-digested content. He was then sedated via food to eventual intramuscular and intravenous anesthetic.

This allowed hands-on, thorough physical examination and X-rays.

Our findings were as follows:

A. He suffered total blindness of his L-EYE, an old injury, (now visible as cataracts) This he must of been living with for some time and NCC had it on his history from before;

B. Significant bruising around and in the socket of his R-EYE, swelling of the eyelids and conjunctiva, small superficial tear at the side of the eyelids and keratitis /injury of the cornea (outside layer) of the eye. And more seriously we visualized blood and inflammation inside of the eyeball. This inflammation can be and, most likely, caused by trauma/ outside injury such a blow to the eye, or maybe, but less likely infection inside and the eye.

C.There was a fairly large bruise on his right chest area, under and in the skin; cause unknown.

D. And a large gaping wound on his left thigh area... this probably from a fight with another male baboon... quite common. Least of our worries. Part of nature and the life of male baboons.

E. X-rays revealed multiple gunshot pellets under the skin, in various place of his body, but none affecting or as a possible cause of the blindness in his R-eye.

F. His bodily condition score was lean but not emaciated.

Ok... so here we have a baboon that has been blind in his L eye for a long time but who could cope with vision/use of his R eye only. And had obviously adapted to that, and survived quite well.

Then something happened very suddenly to change that... an injury that now left him blinded in BOTH eyes. Not a gunshot pellet, no evidence found of that, but some blunt force trauma to the R-eye and its surrounding tissue. Something that hit the eye with quite some force. A baboon fight? .. it is possible... but they don't punch each other like when humans fistfight.

Next possibility... a human inflicted injury?.. very possible...paintball? In evaluating and considering the evidence carefully... VERY possible.

We decided that it was certainly worth giving this baboon a chance at recovery; if the vision returned to his R-eye, he would be able to continue his life in nature, where he left off. Then nature can take its course as IF his vision does restore itself i.e. he can see again, then he can function, fend, defend and forage for himself.

And we certainly could not rule the eye and chest injuries were NOT caused by human interference. So we felt we needed to give him the benefit of the doubt.

If he remained blind and did not make a significant recovery... then there would be only one outcome, obviously. That he would be humanely euthanased by an SPCA veterinarian after re-sedation to reduce stress. All 4 representatives were in agreement.

He received appropriate and carefully selected veterinary treatment/medication for his injuries, and to help with pain, swelling, and infection, in the hope that we might see a return of vision to his R-eye. But this was by no means a given.

Usually, wild animals at the SPCA are given 5 days to recovery and if this fails they are euthanased, so as not to affiliate them with humans.

In Bolo’s case, he needed more time and the SPCA doubled the time period, to give him the benefit of the doubt especially with trying to restore vision.

The first few days were not promising at all, but then his vision started to return as the inflammation in his right eye subsided. We all became really excited and hopeful for a possible release and a good ending to a sad story.

By Monday the 19th of July he was examined by the SPCA and passed as fit for release after a miraculous recovery. I applaud the effort, patience, and care given by the staff of the SPCA. We were all very excited at this positive and amazing turn of events.

CAPE NATURE's approval was the last requirement needed before release. And guess what? No surprise here. IT WAS NOT GIVEN.

To all involved, it came as an unacceptable unfair blow and betrayal of our intentions to allow Bolo a chance to recover! This certainly was NOT FAIR PLAY!

Baboon no: WF7 was to be euthanased. The SPCA Inspectorate apparently, as I had been informed, refused to do so. And I applaud their stand.

On Tuesday 20/07/21, however, he was removed under the instruction of CAPE NATURE for destruction/ execution/ euthanasia....where and by whom and under what levels of stress I do not know.

What I DO know for a fact is that is a DISGRACE!! A TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE DISGRACE.

If we had known this was to be the cold calculated completely unacceptable attitude, easy solution, and action of CAPE NATURE, we would have euthanized him humanely on the first day of examination, while under general anaesthetic 9 days prior and saved this animal further suffering, pain and stress.

This is not my first disappointing and infuriating encounter with CAPE NATURE, and it probably won't be my last. Thankfully they are not called Cape Nature Conservation anymore.. because THAT certainly is a LIE of a name. Maybe they conserve FLORA, but FAUNA... ie animals... no!

In my experience EXTERMINATION of any animal that poses "problem" to humans, seems to be the route they always take. It FAR too much trouble to try and solve the problem by.... securing protection of fauna, education children , stopping urban development in baboon areas, preventing deforestation, planting natural indigenous food sources where such has been destroyed by man ... etc etc...No their recourse/ solution always seems to he along the lines of:


And I question EVERY ONE of their reasons listed to justify their actions regarding Bolo Baboon. They strike me as invented or augmented excuses to justify the extermination of this baboon. As they do with any Fauna that poses a challenge .

I , for one and as a veterinarian, who stands for the rights and welfare of animals, who cannot speak for themselves, reject and abhor their attitude to our Fauna.... Baboons, Leopard, Porcupines, snakes etc.

Why don't you rather take the CORRECT STANCE....get off your backsides , help PROTECT THIS PRECIOUS HERITAGE, protect them from people and suburban encroachment and STOP PLAYING GOD AND INTERFERING IN NATURE.

Protect our biodiversity.... but stop interfering.

Remember CAPE TOWN: Baboons are one of our MOST precious natural heritages, along with Table Mountain etc. etc. David Attenbourough, I quote: I think sometimes we need to take a step back, and just remember that we have no greater right to be here than any other animal.

And remember TAXPAYER... you are paying the salaries of these people who are employed by CAPE NATURE and those on THE MAYORAL COMMITTEE.

DR. GEORGINA DU PLESSIS (BVSc) Veterinarian in practice 35 years. Currently practicing as an Independent Consultant

22 July 2021 8:47 AM