A personal visit from a baboon
I know a lot of you were shocked on Friday evening when I said at supper that I thought the baboons, that were wreaking havoc in towns like Kommetjie and Kleinmond, should be darted and transferred to a remote place in the mountains where they would not trouble people. Some of you pointed out that they were here first and had every right to stay. I think I had been very influenced by all the correspondence in our local paper, The Echo, where agonized parents were saying that they no longer could allow their children to play in their own gardens for fear of baboon attacks. Many people are frightened by them, and when they go into houses, which they frequently do, they make a terrible mess of the place.
Well, I have to report that yesterday I had a personal visit from a baboon about the matter. I was sitting at my desk upstairs in our house in Lakeside, working at my computer. Suddenly I looked up and there, peering in my window, was a huge alpha male baboon. He was sitting on the kitchen roof just below my window. His face was level with mine, just about a foot away, but fortunately it was a cold day and the window was closed. For a few moments we were face to face, looking into each other’s eyes. Then I picked up a sheaf of papers and shook them at him saying “shoo”. It was very inhospitable, but I was shocked and a bit afraid, though there was really no need to be. There was no way he could get in. He looked a bit surprised at my attitude, then turned and leapt gracefully down onto my pelargoniums.
He made his way slowly and peacefully up the path through the back garden. He visited the back of the neighbours garden for a few minutes, and then walked sedately back past our house along the retaining wall. He settled down in full view on the grass above the wall and found a meal of some kind of greenery there, which he popped into his mouth with one of his hands, just as we do, and chewed thoughtfully. When he had finished his meal he turned and evidently crossed Boyes Drive. A few minutes later I saw him half way up the Crack of Dawn, and then lost sight of him amongst the rocks.
I kept thinking of him last night, wondering where he was, whether he had a warm place to sleep, in a cave or under a thick bush. I wondered whether he had been cast out of his troop by a younger male who had taken over the leadership, and I wondered if he was lonely. I began to regret that I had not been more hospitable and had not taken more time to commune with him during his visit. After all, it is not often that one has the opportunity to sit face to face at such close quarters with a baboon. He had such nice brown eyes and his subsequent behaviour could not have been more peaceful. However I did also wonder whether he was just scouting out the possibilities, and if he found a very friendly reception in Lakeside, was planning to bring his whole troop back across the mountain. Was he satisfied with the food the Creator had allotted to him, or was he, like us, caught up in the consumer culture? I knew I had to take his perspective more seriously. Perhaps this visit was not a co-incidence? The questions remain. How can we all live attuned to one another sharing the bounty of the Earth?