Baboons Belong campaign. Send your photos to Baboons Belong on Facebook. Photo: FB / Baboons Belong

Photos are pouring in from around South Africa and the world, with the words “Baboons Belong” written on the palms of people’s hands, to raise awareness for a vastly improved management of these iconic animals in the Western Cape who currently face death if they don’t behave according to a set of what some people call “draconian protocols”.

Tragedy has befallen the baboons who are treated like pests by some, and killed by the City of Cape Town if deemed appropriate by the set of Protocols. On 8 April 2021 yet another baboon – named Philemon – was killed (euthanised) by the City in terms of these Protocols. The male baboon’s raids were apparently putting other baboons from the area in danger.

After the alleged killing of almost 80 baboons on the Cape Peninsula alone, Philemon’s death was the final straw for three conservation groups who have collaborated in a desperate bid to fight for a better management of these animals than killing them.

The organisations are Baboon Matters, Baboons of the South, and the Green Group of Simon’s Town. Spearheaded by Jenni Trethowan, Lorraine Holloway and Luana Pasanisi, the Baboons Belong campaign was launched on 9 June.

Its logo is a symbolic image based on a photograph of tragic Philemon. The Baboons Belong campaign will run until 30 June (so please send your photos asap!).

The Baboons Belong campaign asks:

Do you think #BaboonsBelong? If you are one of the many thousands of people who support baboons, please share this post! Around South Africa baboons are persecuted and under threat, we want the decision makers to be aware of the enormous concern there is for our opportunistic, charismatic baboons. Please take a few minutes and write #Baboons Belong across your palm, take a photo of you with your hands up showing the text and send the image to us.

Baboons Belong photos
Send your photos to Baboons Belong on Facebook.

Speaking to SAPeople, Baboons Belong said they have been delighted to see so many organisations and individuals, who are concerned about baboons, join the campaign to ensure its overall success.

“The intention of the campaign (is) to make it a public-owned campaign with the spotlight on baboons, not on any organisation.

“The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness in the public domain of the lot of baboons around South Africa, also with a focus on our Peninsula baboons who are managed within the City Urban Baboon Management.

“The campaign seeks to allow the public to raise their voices for our baboons; to change the perception held by some that baboons are nuisance animals with no value to our biodiversity; and to raise awareness as to how our baboons are being negatively impacted by human behaviour and unfair baboon management policies.

“The campaign will post every conceivable type of message to change human behaviour, educate, inform and persuade people to think differently about baboons. We need to try to gain recognition for the iconic animals that baboons are.”

As The Lighthouse cafe’s chef extraordinaire Mike Israel says – baboons belong as much as the penguins, whales and all the other wildlife that live alongside Capetonians in the south peninsula.

However, the ultimate and most critical aim of Baboons Belong “is to hold the workshop with all stakeholders, as agreed to by Minister Bredell some months ago, to review baboon management as a whole.”

New approach needed to manage baboons

Baboons Belong told SAPeople: “A new and innovative approach is needed to manage baboons. An approach that does not have a draconian set of protocols which leads to the killing of male baboons, as was the case for the baboon known as Philemon from the Smitswinkel Bay troop. In our view the killing of Philemon cannot be justified by any means at all.

“…the killing of Philemon cannot be justified by any means at all.”

“There has been a great deal of lobbying for this workshop, with the campaign seen as a further means to achieve this workshop as quickly as possible.”

As the campaign points out – “baboons are highly intelligent and charismatic opportunists with super dexterous bodies that they make the most of in their life time. This unfortunately is seen by some as an irritant whilst in others a marvel of nature and the charm of an area. Which one are you??”

Please show baboons your support by sending Baboons Belong your photo (with Baboons Belong written on your palms) with a caption.