Friday, May 26, 2006

Baboons Gone Wild!

Oh, that's right, they ARE wild animals!

I came across this article, titled "Baboons Raid South African Beach Homes," in the course of my daily work routine (check e-mail, read entertainment news, check MySpace, read the so-called "real" news, try to work at some point). It first intrigued me because any sentence automatically becomes funny when you include the word baboon, but then the animal lover in me kicked in. To summarize the article, there are several troops of baboons in South Africa who are starting to enter the yards and houses of a wealthy coastal community in order to find food.
The well-to-do residents want the baboons "dealt with," while others want the baboons protected, using the rationale that the apes bring in curious tourists.

I found this article interesting on several levels. The writing itself and the quotes made in the article contain some giggle-inducing phrases. My favorite is the description of the apes "defecating over the designer furnishings" while ransacking the oceanfront homes. That phrase just screams madlibs. Another thought-provoking tidbit comes from Jenni Trethowan, a local tour guide in favor of allowing the apes to remain in the the area: "If you think how easily a baboon could rip a person apart, the fact that they don't is quite remarkable." Say what? So we're supposed to admire animals for not killing us now, is that it? If this mindset catches on, those peace-loving bunny rabbits are going to have to work on their collective image.

The writer of his piece, Anton Ferreira, completely lost me at this description of Quizzy, a male baboon: "Quizzy turned at the approach of the tourists, regarding them with profound melancholy." I happen to believe that certain animals are capable of experiencing emotion, but I don't think that a few days of observation make this guy Dian Fossey. Ferreira was reading a little too much into the baboons' faces. Sorry to generalize, but if all men were as attentive to others' moods as Ferreira, Dr. Phil would totally be out of a job.

Going back to matters of content, this issue sounds fairly serious for humans and baboons alike. These baboons aren't merely rummaging through trash cans. They are actually entering people's homes and yards, occasionally in the presence of humans--even children. Given that I consider the appearance of a spider in my home to be an unacceptable invasion of privacy, I would be terrified if I lived in that community. This situation is dangerous for the baboons as well. They have apparently been shot, maimed, killed by dogs, hit by cars, etc. These animals aren't meant to dwell in residential areas. The more problematic issue is that the baboons are getting used to being fed by tourists and, indirectly, the residents of the Cape Peninsula. Wild animals cannot grow accustomed to having food provided for them.

Hopefully the proposed solution of increasing the number of monitors (people charged with shooing the baboons away from residential areas) will be implemented, and safety for both groups will be achieved. In the meantime, I will continue to think of the Simpsons episode where Lisa called Homer a baboon. "Baboon, baboon, baboon. BABOON!" Priceless.