This week, some of the Primate & Predator Project team at Lajuma took a short adventure to the Mogalakwena Research Centre for a Baboon Crop Raiding Workshop that was held by Leah Findlay, a PhD student at Durham University who is also a member of the PPP. Leah’s research focuses on finding effective mitigation strategies that are both economically and socially acceptable to the local farmers and land owners for baboon crop raiding problems. So, who better to ask than the farmers and land owners themselves? Flyers were made and dispersed to as many farmers in the area as possible and in the end, the workshop had over 20 participants, many of whom drove very long distances to attend. It was a great turn out!
The Lajuma team arrived a couple of hours early to help set up for the event, and while Ben Coleman, the project’s Primate Research Coordinator slaved over the projector and name tags, the research assistants enjoyed a luxurious seating area situated by a river and some waterbuck.
Here is Sophie showing her style and grace.
And Carson inspecting the waterbucks.
As it came closer to starting time, the biltong and crisps enticed everyone to their seats, and Leah began by ensuring that the conversations that would take place would be anonymous and confidential. Everyone began sharing their many ideas and opinions immediately, and the discussion was off to a good start.
Leah started out with a list of potential strategies she felt were important to discuss, ranging from mildly deterrent to lethal methods. The feedback which she got from the local landowners will be used to determine the most promising methods that she will trial in the coming year. As the big fan of baboons that I am (I spend 13 hour days with them regularly) it was discouraging to see how problematic these animals are to the local livelihoods. One farmer recounted a story in which baboons managed to raid several hectares of crops in just one hour, and this was certainly not the only account of crop loss due to baboons. It became clear that many of these methods had been tested by some of the farmers and that it was improbable that one method would work on its own. Baboons are extremely intelligent and will eventually become habituated to the tactics used, therefore, an eclectic and random mix of methods seemed to be the most promising strategy.
While there were definitely a few heated moments during the discussion, everyone seemed to be on good terms by the time the braai began. Let me just say, it was more like a five star meal; everyone was treated to pork chops, pap, and much more. It was delicious, and not to mention a great experience to be able to socialize with the people who have grown up here in South Africa. Overall, we all had a great time and I hope some useful baboon conservation strategies will result from it.
– written by Grace Kennedy, PPP Research Assistant