Raiding apes collared
WEATHERTODAY Team of scientists use tracking devices to investigate baboons raiding Cape Peninsula
SCIENTISTS from the University of Cape Town (UCT) are part of an international team that revealed how baboons use a sit-and-wait tactic before raiding people’s homes in search of food.
“Raiding baboons are a real challenge in the Cape Peninsula. The baboons enter properties to raid gardens and bins, but also enter homes and sometimes take food directly from people,” director of the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa at UCT Prof Justin O’Riain said.
In a previous study, the team showed that while Cape Town’s baboon management strategy kept them away from urban spaces, some males were still finding their way in.
The team therefore built bespoke baboon tracking collars to track the movements and activity of 10 males via GPS and accelerometer sensors.
Lead author of the study, Dr Gaëlle Fehlmann, said: “People assume the baboons don’t have enough food in their natural habitats and have no choice but to forage in town.
In fact, our research shows there is plenty of food in the natural environment, where there is very little risk of the baboons being disturbed by anyone. In contrast, the chances of human-baboon conflicts in urban areas are high, but so are the food rewards, which are 10 times richer in calories.”
The collar data revealed that male baboons were staying at the city edge, engaging in short but intense forays to the urban environment when opportunity presented itself, similar to a sitand-wait strategy.
Head of Swansea University’s Sociality, Heterogeneity, Organisation and Leadership group and senior author of the study, Dr Andrew King, said: “We suspected the baboons were doing something clever to minimise the risks associated with urban foraging and the data collected from the collars confirmed this.”
The data showed that as a consequence of their raiding tactics, the baboons studied only foraged for about 10% of their time, which was considerably less than the non-raiding baboons in the Cape Peninsula or elsewhere on the African continent which spend at least half of their time foraging.
PEEPING TOM: Baboons in the Cape Peninsula use a sit-and-wait tactic.