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LIVING WITH MONKEYS/BABOONS

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This site was created with one objective: to provide a platform for those seeking primate related information. Although it is a blog site, and comments are read and sometimes added, it is not our intention to have an interactive blog. Residents wanting to liase on how to co-exist with monkeys or baboons, please contact us via email. Given the stats data we receive, many people from all over the world visit our site daily, particularly the slide show on how to co-exist with wild primates. We welcome you all and thank you for popping by.

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Life as a Bachelor Male

Shared from Samango Monkey Research Project - Life as a Bachelor Male


Life as a bachelor male


SAMSMALL
While I was driving along the main road in Dargle Valley, an adult male samango monkey ran across the road in front of my vehicle then disappeared into a Bluegum plantation. It is believed that samango troops do not wander far away from the forest patches they live in, but this doesn’t appear to be the case for the bachelor males who leave their natal troops around the age of six years.
Back in 2012, I’d carefully put together a troop of orphaned vervet monkeys that people had brought to me over the years and had released them into the indigenous forest around our home where they’d spent their early years semi-dependent on me for food and protection. While free-roaming in the forest, as an integral aspect of the rehabilitation process, they’d learned how to avoid predators and navigate conflict with competitors sharing their home range. The troop chose to remain within the borders of the property on which I lived making it relatively easy to follow their progress. At five years old, the first sub-adult male – named Kennedy – left the troop to find a new troop to move into. Two months later, he returned home, covered in deep wounds after one particularly difficult fight with the alpha male of his new group. Because so many baboons and monkeys that had been electrocuted, shot or run over by cars had been brought to me over the years, I was relieved to see Kennedy alive, albeit injured. 
malesamkilled
Vervet, baboon and samango males all leave their birth troops to find a new troop to live with around the age of sexual maturity in order to ensure genetic mixing. While single male vervets and baboons spend about two months moving into a new group (and may be wrongly labeled as “rogue males”), the samango male can take a few years navigating this fragile period. Vervets and baboons have a multi-male, multi-female social system whereas the samango has one (or two) adult males living with a group of adult females and their offspring.  Small bachelor groups – that temporarily spend time with samango troops – also exist. Much of the danger facing the dispersing male is likely to be found in areas inhabited by humans where these males run the risk of being run over by cars, electrocuted on pylons or killed by dogs.
In the Dargle, bachelor samango males appear to be forming symbiotic relationships with vervet troops which offers them protection and social interaction.
samver207
An adult female vervet monkey forages closely to two male samangos – Dargle Valley
“To offset the possible negative consequences of the monkeys’ reliance on exotic seeds, including escalating conflict between monkeys and people in gardens, we suggest gradual removal of exotic plant species in the habitat and replacement with indigenous species as one mitigation strategy.” Reliance on Exotic Plants by Two Groups of Threatened Samango Monkeys – Cercopithecus mitis labiatus –  at their Southern Range Limit – Wimberger et al.

DOGS AND BABOONS

BABOONS AND DOGS

THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING FRIENDLY RELATIONS WITH OUR NEIGHBOURS – BOTH HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN

For years I’ve lived harmoniously with dogs, cats, monkeys and baboons. I’ve shared my “territory” with six different raiding baboon troops in various parts of South Africa forcing me to find ways to live in peace with these animals while finding the peace of mind needed to know the dogs and cats that lived with me would be safe.


The juvenile baboons in the wild baboon troop were particularly interested in forming friendly relationships with my cats... 

The wild resident baboon troops have always shown respect for the animals that live with me, including the free-roaming rescued,  vervet monkeys that lived in the forest around my home. The video at the end of this post shows how three different primate species lived peacefully together. This is merely one example taken from a time in my life when I was rehabilitating injured and orphaned vervet monkeys.

 I’m no different to anyone else; I love the dogs, cats and monkeys in my care and the idea of a baboon attacking any of them is abhorrent.



 BABOONS/MONKEY RELY ON RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIPS – WITHIN THE TROOP AS WELL AS WITH THEIR HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN NEIGHBOURS:
If you’re concerned about the animals in your care, it is important to show respect for the baboons and/or monkeys that wander onto your property so that they will offer you the same behaviour. This certainly does not mean allowing them to cross boundaries; we can show them they are not welcome to take our food while showing them that we can be trusted not to harm them.

THE BABOONS/MONKEYS AROUND YOUR HOME ASSOCIATE THE ANIMALS IN YOUR CARE WITH YOU.
Be aware that a wild primate troop in the area has established a relationship with you over time – whether you are conscious of this or not - and the animals associated with you.

Baboons are generally exceptionally tolerant of dogs chasing them and may even play with them. However, they discern between dogs that chase for harmless reasons and dogs that are a serious threat to the members of the troop – particularly the babies.

Sometimes residents have dogs that are particularly vicious towards intruders – it may be the breed or the manner in which the dog was trained and this could create a problem with baboons whereby the baboons are forced to defend themselves against your dog, but this is not the only reason for dogs being attacked. The first question I ask when a resident tells me their dog was attacked by a baboon is: what is your relationship with the baboons – have you ever killed a baby or other troop member?

Your attitude towards the wild resident baboon troop that enters your property may be the reason behind the baboons attacking your dog.

Soon after the wild baboon troop arrived one day, this adult female looked at me, then presented to my cat (a friendly, respectful gesture in this context). 

BUT WON’T A BABOON GET VENGEFUL IF I CHASE THE TROOP AWAY FROM MY VEGETABLE GARDEN?
NO.
 Baboon/monkey troops understand your need to protect your property. If you shoot one of their troop members while chasing them away from your vegetable garden, you may well create a problem in your relationship with them but if you adopt non-lethal deterrents, this will be understood and accepted.

HOW CAN I SHOW THE BABOONS I RESPECT THEM WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY SHOWING THAT THEY MAY NOT RAID MY PROPERTY?


1.       ADOPT NON-LETHAL METHODS TO LIVE IN HARMONY WITH BABOONS/MONKEYS. Methods on how to live peacefully can be found on this site and are looked at in our video presentation above.

2.       TRAIN YOUR DOG NOT TO CHASE THEM: Some dogs are difficult to train and may not listen but the fact that YOU are showing them that you don’t approve of your dog chasing them shows them you care about their welfare.As mentioned previously, baboons are exceptionally tolerant of dogs chasing them generally but when forced to defend themselves against attack, the interaction may turn violent. 


The goal is to establish a friendly relationship with your wild primate neighbours while consistently making sure they know they can’t take food from your property in a way that does not threaten their lives. 



MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT BABOONS

The following info has been taken from: http://www.imfene.org/misconceptions-about-baboons - a site that offers information from a scientific viewpoint. 

Misconceptions about Baboons

Below are some things we've heard people say about baboons in South Africa....and some answers based on current scientific knowledge.

Look at those long teeth - they must be for hunting prey.

Unlike dogs and cats, baboons are not natural carnivores and they do not have adaptations for hunting and eating meat. The long canine teeth you see on a male baboon are instead adaptations for male-male competition; males use these teeth to fight with other males and gain access to females. More commonly, males do not even have to use their teeth: they simply display them to other males in an open-mouthed threat or yawn, which serves as a signal to other males to stay away.
Baboons do occasionally hunt and eat small animals such as hares and lizards, but such foods comprise only a very small portion of their diet, which includes virtually everything (i.e., they are 'omnivores').  For more on baboon diets, see the Baboon Ecology page.
Also keep in mind that there are other animals, such as cats, snakes, and raptors, that habitually prey on birds, birds' eggs, and other small animals. These animals, unlike baboons, are natural predators and are much better than baboons at locating and catching prey.


Look at those long teeth - I'd better watch out!

Baboons are not natural predators and thus would not normally attack a human unless threatened in some way. Examples of this would be if a baboon is made to feel trapped (e.g., inside a house with no escape route), if a person tries to take something away from a baboon (e.g., food), or if a person gets between an adult baboon and its infant. A baboon may also feel threatened if you look at it directly in the eyes, as baboons use direct eye contact to threaten one another.


Look at those long teeth - he's out to get my pet!

A baboon will not normally attack a dog or cat unless it feels threatened in some way.  For example, a baboon may react aggressively if the dog lunges at or attacks the baboon, if the dog gets between an adult baboon and its infant, or if the baboon is made to feel trapped (e.g., inside a house with no escape route).  With small dogs and cats, it is possible that the baboon may perceive it as prey - as baboons do sometimes hunt and eat small mammals such as hares and small antelope. So, best to keep your pets away from baboons.  For more information, see the Baboons and Dogspage.


We see more baboons around, so their population size must be increasing.

In greatest likelihood, you see more baboons around you because the baboons in the area where you live are (a) gradually losing their fear of humans while (b) discovering how easy it is to gain access to human foods. These are psychological and behavioural changes in the baboons as a response to their interactions with humans. The baboons have formed a mental association between humans and easily-acquired food and have learned that they need not fear humans but can instead get food from them! This occurs because some people (particularly tourists) feed baboons and the baboons that do raid are not being stopped from doing so. Over time, the baboons will spend more and more of their time near people awaiting a free meal unless they learn that those free meals are no longer available.
As a result of these changes, we see the baboons around more often and naturally come to the conclusion that there are more of them in the population. The most likely scenario, however, is that there are just more of them near us because that's where they get the best food!
Note: for some basic information on how fast baboons reproduce, see the Baboon Reproduction page.


Baboons are becoming bolder and more aggressive.

Baboons are not naturally aggressive towards humans and will usually only show aggression if you trap them or try to take something away from them. Baboons are wild animals and, like most wild animals, are naturally afraid of humans! The increased aggression and boldness of baboons that we perceive simply reflects a decreased fear of humans combined with an increased opportunity for free food. As stated above, these are psychological and behavioural changes occurring in the baboons themselves as they learn that humans are a source of easily-acquired food at the same time that they discover that there is no reason to fear humans. if humans and baboons are to co-exist peacefully then we must try to reverse or at least slow down this process as much as possible. To do this, we must (1) remove these opportunities for free food (i.e., decrease the attractants) and (2) increase the baboons' fear of humans (i.e., use effective deterrents and never feed or approach baboons!).  For more information, see the Causes of Commensalism page.


Baboons are competing with humans for territory.

A territory is an area that animals defend against other members of their own species. Unlike many other primates, such as chimpanzees for example, baboons are NOT territorial. Rather, each baboon troop occupies a 'home range', part of which overlaps with the home range of other troops. Usually different troops avoid using these overlapping areas at the same time, and troops and home ranges shift fluidly in accordance with one another. (Thus, if humans encroach upon the home range of one troop, this can affect that troop's relationship with other troops as well as the home ranges of all other troops in the area.) When baboon troops fight, it is usually over a food resource, over a sleeping site, or it is related to male-male competition over females and/or attempted infanticide – it is not over territories.
Baboons are opportunistic and will take food from our properties if it is available. This will occur whether or not our property is (or was) within the home range of that troop. We may think that we can keep baboons away by 'showing them' that this is 'our' territory. This is pointless, as a baboon couldn't care less whose territory it is – it just wants the food!
Expanding human populations results in increased overlap between baboons and humans. This, combined with the natural flexibility of baboons, means that instead of 'moving out' of their original home range or simply dying off, a baboon troop may instead simply adapt its behaviour to this increased contact. As baboons lose their fear of humans (sometimes as a result of interactions with tourists and/or deliberate provisioning of baboons by humans), they become more and more willing to exploit the human-derived food resources they see as readily available to them and they start helping themselves to the food they find in gardens, homes, and cars with little or no regard for the humans who may be nearby.
For more information on keeping baboons out of "your" territory, see the Baboons and Your Property page.


Baboons mark their territories, and we can 'fight back' by marking ours.

Many animals mark their territories with urine or other bodily fluids, leaving a scent that is detectable by other animals. Baboons do not do this. There are two issues to consider here:
1. Baboons are not territorial (see above).
2. In the monkey and ape species that are territorial, vocalizations are used most often to defend territories, NOT scent-marking.
All monkeys and apes, like humans, use visual and vocal communication far more than the sense of smell. Monkeys and apes do not have the rhinarium (wet nose) that dogs and cats have, and without this feature they have to get very close to something to smell it. Many people assume that baboons have a keen sense of smell because of their dog-like face, but in fact their sense of smell is not very different from our own!


Lone baboon males are 'rogue males' that have been rejected by their troop and are out to cause trouble.

Male baboons typically leave the troops in which they were born and move into new troops to reproduce. Some males do this two or more times during their lifetime. This process of group transfer, called dispersal, may start when a male is a young subadult (i.e., not yet full body size, canine teeth not yet fully developed), at which point he may leave his natal troop and join other troops on a temporary basis while he decides which troop to ultimately immigrate into. We thus sometimes see male baboons wandering around alone during this dispersal process, which may last several months or more.  For more information about dispersal in baboons, see the Dispersal and Philopatry page.
Unfortunately, some of these dispersing males do 'get into trouble,' as it is much easier for a lone male baboon to slip into the urban area and enter buildings looking for food without being seen than for an entire troop to do so! These males are often viewed as 'sneaky' because they enter buildings silently. This probably has nothing to do with the baboon deliberately trying to hide from humans. Rather, it is likely because the baboon is alone, surrounded by members of another species that he is naturally afraid of, and without any other baboons around to communicate with!
Also unfortunate is the situation in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa where dispersing males often end up stuck in urban areas because they are trying to disperse across them – but there is simply too much urban sprawl in the way for them to be able to reach new troops.


The alpha male baboon leads the troop.

Baboon troops are held together by kinship bonds among related females, who typically stay their entire lives in the troop in which they were born. These females are organized into matrilines, with each female that is born ranking in a dominance hierarchy just below her mother. The oldest females in the troop are the 'matriarchs', and they have been in the troop the longest and have acquired the most knowledge. Male baboons, by contrast, leave their natal troops and disperse to new troops one or more times in their lives. Males fight for dominance amongst themselves, and there is invariably an 'alpha male' of the troop, but his alpha status may be short-lived and he may not have been in the troop for very long. Thus it is the females, especially the oldest females, that hold the troop together, that know the most about local resources, and that probably contribute the most to the troop's movement patterns.  For more information on kinship bonds and sociality in baboons, see the Baboon Sociality page.


Content on this page contributed by: 
Larissa Swedell
Julian Saunders
Thanks to the following reviewers for improving this page:
Dr. Jessica Rothman
Dr. Angela van Doorn
Dr. Janette Wallis
Dr. Kirsten Wimberger

Please credit this website for any and all use of this material.

While we recognise that in certain areas, baboons are known to kill small mammals, this is not common behaviour and has the capacity to cause unnecessary fear and tragedy in human/wildlife situations where people are not aware of true baboon behaviour. DPG

PRIMATE EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS

YOU ARE WELCOME TO DOWNLOAD, PRINT AND USE THIS MATERIAL FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES:



FOR CHILDREN:

















FOR THOSE RESCUING SINGLE (DISPERSING) MONKEYS OR BABOONS IN BUILT UP HUMAN AREAS

Info on dispersing (transient) males can be found at the following link: Single Male Monkeys or Baboons

















The Argument Against Consumptive Sustainable Use:

The Argument Against Consumptive Sustainable Use:

Karin Saks

Is it possible to promote the idea of wildlife as a commodity that may be traded, controlled, hunted, subjected to untold cruel practices in the name of biomedical research and entertainment, yet simultaneously expect this practice to foster a respect for wildlife and the environment?

Lions by Karin Saks 


The sustainable use of wildlife can either be consumptive or non-consumptive:
Consumptive use:
The killing, trapping and capturing of wild animals for commerce (for ivory, the pet trade, biomedical research) or recreation (sport hunting, entertainment).
Non consumptive Use:
An activity that generates income without harming animals or removing them from their habitats.

The concept of sustainable use has been pushed as a sound wildlife management tool, yet in practice it has involved far more “use” and not much sustainability. History has shown that it generally results in the over-exploitation and decimation of the species involved.

Depletion of species used is almost always a forgone conclusion because of several factors, some being:

1.The short term financial interest and greed (human nature) of the users.
2.Inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations
3.The inability to predict the outcome of our attempts to manage wild animals with any degree of accuracy.

These factors and results have almost - without exception - characterised past efforts at consumptive management and the commercial use of wildlife species.

EXAMPLES OF DAMAGED WILD POPULATIONS:

Wild species that are perceived to be in competition with agriculture and forestry are generally painted as healthy and plentiful in spite of the fact that their populations are not monitored. The reason for this is to keep the real damage done to these species hidden from the public so that agriculture can appear to be justified in persecuting them. In Southern Africa, “problem” species have historically been fatally injured and killed in exceptionally cruel ways – poison, gin traps, bow and arrows, dog hunting packs, barbed wire are some of many methods that have been used.

In the past, near Bloemhof about 200 kms west of Johannesburg, a small reserve named the SA Lombard Nature Reserve was in existence. At this reserve, captured predators were fed on meat laced with poisons, while conservation officials recorded the time taken by the animals to die. Dogs were bred (at taxpayers' expense) to supply the dog-packs which hunted the land, killing our wildlife. Large scale barbaric cruelty was carried out, hidden from the tax payers who paid for it. Not much has changed since the days of the Oranjejag hunting club which exterminated 87,570 animals in the Free State alone.

The Wild Dog – once perceived to be a “problem animal” or “damage causing animal”, has been exterminated from large parts of Africa and is an example of how a species that is not monitored, is plagued by misconceptions and is encouraged to be persecuted by legislation and ignorance can become highly endangered due to the message of disrespect conveyed by the consumptive use camp. Today the Wild Dog is one of the continent's most rarely encountered animals. Other Southern African species that suffer similar effects as perceived “problem animals”, are likely to go the same way unless there is change. The vervet monkey and chacma baboon are generally believed to be healthy due to that fact that they are “commonly” seen in certain areas but the damage caused to troop strcutures , and how this impacts on related ecosystems has not been taken into consideration. As a result those that work hands-on with these species report a dwindling in numbers and troop structure damage that has a ripple effect on future generations and all related systems.

Founded as the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project in 1989, the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) has expanded to cover all the large carnivore species in Botswana. It is one of the longest running large predator research projects in Africa and one of only a handful of its caliber worldwide.

BPCT research on wild dogs has made it abundantly clear that the health and welfare of the entire predator population is a key indication of overall health of the ecosystem.

Preservationists and animal protectionists have begun to realise the importance of focussing not only on endangered species but on working towards a healthy biodiversity.

In his book Animals In Peril, ex chief executive, John Hoyt from the HSUS, says:

“Whales were supposedly sustainably exploited for decades under the careful scientific management regime of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – until all eight species of great whales were pronounced endangered.

Sustainable use did not work with such developed North American resources such as grizzly bears, ducks, californian sardines, ancient forests, or just about anything else that has supposedly been managed, conserved, exploited , utilized or harvested on a sustained yield basis.

Not even white tailed deer which have thrived, can be considered an unmitigated management success. Creating and maintaining a “harvestable surplus” of deer has adversely affected other species, and has been achived by the removal of old growth forests and predators.”

The “Damage” Caused by Elephants Benefits Biodiversity:
A recent study showing environmental benefits conducted by elephants, that are often perceived to be environmentally damaging, illustrates how inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations can be destructive to the environment: ”Areas heavily damaged by elephants are home to more species of amphibians and reptiles than areas where the beasts are excluded”, the study suggests.
The findings have been published in the African Journal of Ecology.
"Elephants, along with a number of other species, are considered to be ecological engineers because their activities modify the habitat in a way that affects many other species," explained Bruce Schulte, now based at Western Kentucky University, US.
"They will do everything from digging with their front legs, pulling up grass to knocking down big trees. So they actually change the shape of the landscape."
He added that elephants' digestive system was not very good at processing many of the seeds that they eat.
"As the faeces are also a great fertiliser, the elephants are also able to rejuvenate the landscape by transporting seeds elsewhere," Dr Schulte told BBC News.
In the paper, the scientists concluded that difference in abundance and species richness in the damaged areas was probably a result of engineering by elephants, generating new habitats for a diverse array of frog species.
Dr Schulte explained the team decided to carry out the study in order to identify effective indicator species that offered an insight into the health of the region's environment.
He added that the findings had implications for habitat and wildlife management strategies.
"if we are managing habitat, then we clearly have to know what we are managing it for.
"What this study point towards is that although things may not look particularly pretty to a human eye does not necessarily mean that it is detrimental to all the life that is there."

“A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”——Dresdin James


Poverty and Racism - Attitudes Towards Animal Rights, Animal Welfare and Environmentalism


 By Karin Saks

To call someone a monkey boy is the worst thing you can say.” As someone who has been accepted into a number of wild baboon troops – and who feels immensely appreciative of this rare privilege - these words hit my confusion barometer. I am, after all, immensely proud to be primate.

A few weeks prior to receiving the email that held these words, I came across the extraordinary story about a young Ugandan boy (now a young man), covered in hair and walking on all fours, who had been found living with a troop of vervet monkeys. Once discovered, the boy had then adopted and rehabilitated by a missionary couple.
At the age of five, the child had run away from home, terrified after witnessing his father kill his mother. He’d then learnt how to survive in the forest by joining a troop of monkeys who came to be his closest allies.

I hoped to share this extraordinary, touching story about love and survival but when I wrote to the young man’s guardians, they refused me permission to use his photo. To be associated with monkeys was considered an enormous insult in Uganda.

Saddened to learn that this experience - which has the capacity to teach us more about cross species relationships and the complex nature of vervet monkeys - was viewed as something to be ashamed of, I pondered on the source of this. The parallels between socially constructed categories such as racism, speciesism and sexism were clearly apparent to me yet the ability to embrace this understanding appeared to come from a place of “privilege”. In South Africa, this generally translates to being in a position where one is not consumed daily by hunger and thoughts about how to feed one's family, whether one's children will survive walking to school, and how to help the family dog's mange problem without the help of a vet. Due to our human limitations, we are only able to contain a certain amount of stress and being privileged allows  us to think about aspects that do not relate to our immediate, short-term survival needs. 

Our human default mode is to understand the world firstly through our own experience. When we “see things as we are and not as they are”, our understanding is not only limited, but acting on that understanding without looking at the perspectives of those we are attempting to communicate with - and influence -  is likely to result in a useless road to nowhere.

This article aims to prioritise  working towards real change regarding the abuse of animals and the planet we share and rely on for survival.

Given that whites in South Africa make up about nine percent of the population, and that only a small percentage of whites in South Africa actively fight against cruelty for animals, and that animal rights/welfare and environmental groups are mostly made up of white people, we can conclude that the future for animals in South Africa – both domestic and wild – is likely to be bleak unless we confront the underlying human politics that plague the fight  for animals as well as the fight to save the planet.

A look into old African environmentalism in order to find some common ground between the animal rights/welfare/environmental groups and traditional groups could be a starting point. The aim of this would be to acknowledge our inter-connection - with each other and the planet which supports us. By working towards this we could extend the African concept of Ubuntu to include all life.
    
Poverty and Racism - Attitudes Towards Animals and the Environment
Two relevant factors which influence our relationship to animals are poverty and racism.

South Africa’s history of apartheid cannot be separated from the fight for the environment, wildlife, animal rights and animal welfare. With animal welfare and, environmental groups being largely white and whites making up a mere nine percent of the population, a clear look into how racism and poverty affects this is desperately needed in order to encourage the majority of the population to join in fighting for a compassionate, society that challenges sexism, racism, speciesism and embraces the fact that our collective struggle to survive is reliant on a healthy planet.

In South Africa, where racial capitalism caused income and social inequality during apartheid, the problems associated with poverty continue. And attitudes towards the environment and animal issues are one aspect of this. “Poverty is a major cause of social tensions and threatens to divide a nation because of the issue of inequalities, in particular income inequality. This happens when wealth in a country is poorly distributed among its citizens. In other words, when a tiny minority has all the money.” (EFFECTS OF POVERTY)

Comments – especially from those who did not suffer the worst aspects of apartheid -- stating that South Africans need to get over apartheid and move on can be found all over social media sites, yet white racism and its counterpart “reverse racism” remain strongly rooted in the present, fueling the tension. The aftermath of racial capitalism as practiced prior to 1994, with its social and economical inequalities, has followed us into the present day. 

A number of scientific ideas on evolution emerged during the 18th century that resulted  in perpetuating racist stereotypes - apes were associated in the European imagination with indigenous people and, indeed, people of African descent. “While most evolutionists believed that all human races descended from the same stock, they also noted that migration, and natural and sexual selection had created human varieties that – in their eyes – appeared superior to Africans or Aborigines.” James Bradley 

By making it seem as if people of a non-European origin were more like apes than humans, these different theories were used to justify plantation slavery in the Americas and colonialism through the rest of the world.
Religious ideas impacted on this as well; while many believed in the unity of the human species, some thought that God had created separate human species. White Europeans were described as closest to the angels, while black Africans and Aborigines were closest to the apes.

Various scientific and religious theories worked together to reinforce the European right to control large areas of the world.

Summoning up an association with monkeys taps into the reminder that has led to indigenous dispossession and the other consequences  of colonialism. When indigenous people were labelled as being closer to animals, it inevitably created a need to distance oneself from animals, hence contributing towards negative attitudes towards animal welfare.

One event which exacerbated the polarization of different groups in South Africa stands out as one we could learn from. In an annual ritual known as Ukushima, young Zulus chase a bull around a kraal, corner the bull and then suffocate the bull to death. In 2010, one of South Africa’s prominent Animal Rights groups, took the matter to court with the goal of getting this practice banned, arguing that traditions need to evolve with the times and that cultural tradition should not be used as an excuse for cruelty. That this tradition is inhumane and unacceptable cannot be argued. However, horrific cruelty can be found in various practices - mostly hidden from us - in abattoirs, medical research laboratories and factory farms. Focusing on this event led to the president’s spokesman claiming that animal right groups were acting out of a desire to impose their civilisation and that this was “racism cloaked as a defence of animal rights” He went on to say:”The disrespect and contempt for African culture and traditions demonstrated by the debate demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of those who have anointed themselves voices of reason. This is reminiscent of the arrival of the European settlers on our shores who declared that our people were barbaric heathens who needed to be civilised.”

The animal rights group denied any racist intention. The focus of their actions was based solely on preventing further cruelty.

The case was interpreted as being disrespectful to the rights bearers as it undermined the dignity of a people once oppressed under apartheid and historically patronised by colonialists.

Whether one sides with the Animal Rights Group or the President’s sentiments, what matters most to those of us who work to help animals is the fact that these actions  backfired on any initiative that seeks to counter animal abuse. 

This approach not only does not work to achieve any progress for the plight of animals, it has further polarised people in South Africa resulting in perpetuating the perception that animal rights and welfare as well as environmentalism is specifically a “white” issue.

 President Zuma sparked further debate in 2012 when he stated that; “Spending money on buying a dog, taking it to the vet and for walks belonged to white culture and was not the African way” He went on to describe people who loved dogs as......“having a lack of humanity”.
While many animal loving black South Africans certainly exist, in spite of massive poverty, the stereotypes persist.



The Khoisan co-existed harmoniously with Baboons


An approach that is more mindful of traditional cultures may help to heal the rift. There are plenty of examples illustrating a respect for the environment before the white man arrived in the Cape in 1652, established farms and then conducted an unprecedented slaughter on our wildlife (For more info - Human/Wildlife Conflict). Before this, the respectful Khoisan had co-existed peacefully with wild animals. 

Credo Mutwa is an extraordinary South African character; he is a traditional healer, psychic 
and talented storyteller. His knowledge of old Africa which has been progressively lost throughout past decades remains a crucial key to understanding our true relationship to nature and other animals. In his book, Isilwane the Animal, he describes how African people did not see us humans as separate from nature in the past: we understood that we are not above animals, trees, fishes and birds but equal to them. Read more about Old African Environmentalism here: Old Africa and the Environment

Comparing Racism and Speciesism – Human Slavery and Animal Slavery: Paul York.


OLD AFRICA AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Once upon a time in Africa, people understood that us humans are not above all other animals but equal to them. And so the time has come for us to reflect on the past, present and look deeply to find a solution to the damage we have caused.



Credo Mutwa is an extraordinary South African character; he is a traditional healer, psychic and talented storyteller. His knowledge of old Africa which has been progressively lost throughout past decades remains a crucial key to understanding our true relationship to nature and other animals. In his book, Isilwane the Animal, he describes how African people did not see us humans as separate from nature in the past: we understood that we are not above animals, trees, fishes and birds but equal to them.




Old Africa understood our interconnectedness with all living beings. When the white man came to Africa, the continent was teeming with animals which were then mass slaughtered once they erected their farms.
Credo makes the point that many westerners still believe that conservation was imported by colonial powers into Africa and Ian Player confirms in the foreward to the book that those who worked in reserves and protected areas in Zululand know that conservation existed long before the white man arrived.  He describes how African tribes respected nature and our interconnectedness with the Earth by holding wild animals as their totems – a system which served to preserve the environment and showed a clear respect for a healthy biodiversity.


Excerpts from ISILWANE THE ANIMAL BY CREDO MUTWA:

“Through Isilwane the Animal, I hope to open the eyes of the world to traditional African attitudes, folklore and rituals which have governed the relationships between the people of Africa and the animal world.
Today we see the human race running around in circles, like a mad dog chasing its own tail. Today, the same type of confusion prevails in all fields of human thought. There is confusion in the way we view ourselves, there is confusion in the way we view the earth, there is even confusion, believe it or not, at the core of every one of the world’s religions. I can state this with confidence as I have studied most of these religions and even joined some of them.

 But why the confusion? It is due to the way we view things: the way we view the atom, stars, life on Earth, and the way we view the Deity Himself or Herself. But the most dangerous and destructive view by far – one which has changed human beings into rampaging, destructive and mindless beasts – is that we compare ourselves with other living things.

Western Man is taught that he is the master of all living things. The bible itself enshrines this extreme attitude, as do other great books. Repeatedly one hears of dangerous phrases such as “untamed nature”, or “interrogating nature with power”. One hears of the strange belief that man is superior to all other living things on Earth and that he was especially created to be overlord and custodian of all things animate and inanimate. Until these attitudes are combated and erased from the human mind, Westernised humans will be a danger to all earthly life, including themselves.”
“When white people came to Africa, they had been conditioned to separate themselves spiritually and physically from wildlife. In the vast herds of animals, they saw four footed enemies to be crushed and objects of fun to be destroyed for pleasure. They slaughtered wild animals by the million. It never occurred to the white pioneers that these animals were protected by the native tribes through whose land they migrated. It never occurred to them, with their muskets, rifles and carbines, that black people worshipped these great herds and regarded them as an integral part of their existence on Earth.”

CONSERVATION AND THE TOTEM SYSTEM:
“In old Africa, every tribe had an animal that it regarded as its totem, an animal after which the tribe had been names by its founders. It was the sacred duty of the tribe to ensure that the animal after which it was named was never harmed within the confines of its territory. In addition, Africans knew that certain wild animals co-exist with others, and that in order to protect the animal after which the tribe was named, it was essential to protect those animals with which the sacred one co-existed. In KwaZulu- Natal for example, there is a tribe, the Dube people, for whom the zebra is a totem. These people not only protect vast herds of zebra in their tribal land, allowing them to roam where they choose, but they also protect herds of wildebeest because they realise that zebras co-exist with wildebeest. ...The old Africans knew that to protect the zebra one had to effectively protect the wildebeest, the warthog, the bushpig, the eland, the kudu and other animals sometimes found grazing with zebra in the bush. But the old Africans knew that it was not enough to simply protect those animals which grazed with their totem animal. It was essential to protect those animals which preyed upon their sacred animals.

“There were tribes, such as the Batswana Bakaru and the Bafurutsi, which regarded the Baboon as their totem. They knew that protecting the baboons alone was not enough. The leopard which preyed on the baboon had to be protected, along with the plants upon which the baboon fed. The people knew that if they did not protect the plants, they would starve in the bush and start feeding on the crops in the people’s corn and maize fields. If this occurred, baboons would become man’s enemy.
The Batswana Batloung tribe, whose name means “people of the elephant”, were sworn to protect the elephant. They also protected the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus, which they regarded as the elephant’s cousins. It was believed that an elephant would not injure a person who carried the Bafluong name.”

BIODIVERSITY:

“The African people knew, just as the native American people knew, that if you destroy the environment, you will ultimately destroy the human race. ...A remarkable Tswana proverb states that, “He who buries the tree, will next bury the wild animal, and after that, bury his own ox, and ultimately bury his own children.” This saying indicates that people were aware, even in ancient times, of the interdependence on all living creatures upon this Earth, and that if you harm one, you harm others and, in the end yourself.” 

Baboons in Africa - Misunderstanding their Language

A Researcher working in Uganda contacted me some time ago to ask if I could help her understand what was happening to the villagers in her area; a group of the women were being "sexually harassed" by a troop of baboons. These "attacks" occurred when the women headed towards the river to do their daily clothes washing.

I asked if anyone had threatened the baboons, or perhaps walked too close to an infant? She answered that the baboon threats were totally unprovoked by the women and they feared they would be "raped".

Baboons do not rape or sexually harass human women.

Bewildered by this story, I questioned the researcher further.

"Were there any men around when these women were threatened by the baboons?"

"Yes".

The men were threatening the baboons to "protect" the women, the reason being fear.

The behaviour described above is a clear cut case of redirected aggression. The baboons were threatening the women because -  in their eyes -  women are "weaker" hence it is safer to threaten a woman who is connected to a hostile man than threaten the man himself.

This is common behaviour among wild primates. If an adult human man attacks -  or strongly threatens -  a male baboon who feels he has to respond, and there happens to be a woman close by, the baboon will threaten the woman.

As far as baboons sexually harassing humans is concerned, it appears that a certain amount of projection was involved in understanding the behaviour of these baboons.

The solution to a problem like this would be for the men and women to ignore the baboons, act passively and be respectful of their troop and territory.

To harmoniously co-exist with wild primates, it requires us to practice tolerance and patience. We need to take the time to understand their language so we can correctly interpret the behaviour that scares us. 

Living With Vervet Monkeys - Loss of Habitat


Living Harmoniously With Vervet Monkeys

In some parts of South Africa, Vervet monkeys have been forced to compete with humans for resources after having their habitat destroyed by human development. On the surface, it may appear that the Vervet monkeys are being deviant but all too often they are genuinely hungry. Human properties have replaced their ancient foraging routes; your home may be on one of these routes.

When monkeys have no choice but to appeal to humans for food:
While there are many educational initiatives advising the public not to feed monkeys, this approach hasn’t worked effectively, especially in areas where monkeys have no choice but to obtain food from urban environments. In cases where monkeys have no option but to seek food from human properties, denying them this option ensures they will look for food on someone else's property - this does not offer a viable solution.  If we accept that compassionate people are likely to feed hungry monkeys in areas where the monkeys have lost their natural food source, then constructive advice on how to feed monkeys is necessary.
 The Hierarchy Connection:
The Vervet troop in your area has worked out a hierarchical relationship with others sharing their territory. This includes human families and the domestic animals connected to them. Vervet monkeys eat according to their hierarchy with the top ranking members having first access to food. Those lower down the hierarchy are allowed to eat only when the top of the hierarchy have had their fill. Vervets do not give their food to others. Vervet mothers do not even share food with their babies. From the monkeys’ point of view, these principles apply to humans which is why it is a problem to feed them by hand.

Never feed a monkey by hand:
The monkeys around our homes are working out a relationship with us.  When a human hands food to a monkey, it may be interpreted as a giving over of power thus giving the message to the monkey that you are taking a submissive position. Giving away your power when feeding a wild primate is the main reason why feeding becomes a problem as the human/monkey relationship progresses. It is due to feeding by hand that certain monkeys are prone to becoming more and more daring and intimidating when approaching humans for food. This behaviour instills fear in people and the consequences tend to result in the monkeys being harmed.
Accepting responsibility for the problem we have created:
 As we are responsible for destroying the natural habitat of monkeys (and other wildlife), it follows that we are responsible for correcting this imbalance which has caused such harm. To protect the wild animals who share our territory, we need to practice tolerance and patience. We need to adapt our lifestyles to live harmoniously with the wildlife whose habitat we have destroyed.

Feeding Stations:
For those residents who choose to co-exist harmoniously by setting up a feeding station we offer the following guidelines:

1. Don’t feed monkeys by hand. This behaviour may show the monkeys you are lower in the hierarchy which encourages them to act demanding and threatening.

2. When you set up a feeding station, do it when the monkeys are not around to see. This ensures that the feeding station will not be associated with humans but will offer the monkeys a food source that they can survive on.

3. A feeding station requires that you place portions of food in at least three different places – preferably out of sight of each other so that the various groups within the troop are fed. One feeding station encourages the top members of the hierarchy to eat while the
others wait and this is likely to cause those lower on the hierarchy to visit your neighbors to check for food there.

4. If you find that the monkeys are visiting at the same time every day and waiting for food, it means they have come to depend on you for that food source. If this is the case, try to limit the food you are putting out so that they eat what is needed but are encouraged to continue on their foraging route to find food elsewhere too. If you feel that the monkeys are visiting because of a drought or because they have no natural habitat to survive in, encourage your neighbors to put out feeding stations as well.
5. Residents who choose to feed monkeys need to be consistent. If you go away, please ensure that someone is there to feed the monkeys in your place.

Your relationship with the monkeys:

It is beneficial to be consistent in your behaviour when the monkeys visit your home. To keep your "power" so that the monkeys do not enter your home, steal food off your table or threaten your pets, use a water bottle to spray at them when they advance or shout and bang on a pot. Remember that the more hungry the monkeys are, the more likely they are to try different methods for getting food. A communal feeding station is a potential solution for both residents and Vervet monkeys.