I was really entertained and intrigued by reading one of your articles titled , “He plays with Kgale Hill Baboons” dated March 7 ÔÇô 13 2010.
I am quite sure your readers were thinking, wow!!, this gentleman must have some talent or gift, or maybe he can actually communicate with Baboons.
Everybody who visits the Game City for whatever goods and service they may need, can unmistakably see these very distant cousins of ours around waste bins scavenging for domestic food discarded by consumers.
What Mr Jenamo Joel is doing, to an average person, is something very appealing and eye catching, something one would even want to catch on video or snap shot.
But to animal researchers, it’s something that poses questions as to why it is happening, and even look deep into all associated impacts and/or social issues that make these baboons befriend, trust and even feed from the “Baboon man”.
As an Environmentalist, I cannot help but wonder whether the Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment for the Game City shopping complex included all associated negative impacts at the proposal stage, construction phase and operational phase, and whether there was Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) drawn up as to how these potential impacts would be actioned.
In this circumstance, I am looking at the operational phase and all associated negative impacts on both animals and vegetation. Game City is a good development infrastructure that provides goods and services to Batswana, and it is located on the periphery of the Kgale hill siding where there wasn’t or was very limited infrastructure and thus became an increase influx of population at a go, almost shocking the environment.
Having such developments has direct influence and impact in the change of natural lifestyle of not only Baboons but other animals, birds and vegetation around the Kgale hill.
Baboons, in their natural habitat usually feed on wild fruit and insects like scorpions, they play around in trees and bask in the sun and occasionally go for a drink of water by a nearby pond.
But in this circumstance where we see the Baboon Man playing and feeding these baboons, I then ask myself, with displeasure and sorrow, what have we done to these poor animals? What is their future going to be like? Are we or have we already taken their natural animalism from them? Are we now domesticating them?
These are just some of the questions that rush into my mind.
And believe me, answering these questions require intensive research, which might as well be a University research thesis. There is a natural ecological diversified balance of organisms great and small, hence the food chain. So ask yourself, what do venomous black scorpions diet on? They eat smaller insects, now these smaller insects, like cockroaches, eat left over domestic foodstuffs we throw away.
So would I be wrong to assume that these smaller insects will drop from the trees and encroach those areas where we throw the food waste? There is, or was an eco-balance in that the increase in those cockroaches is controlled by the scorpions, and the scorpions species is controlled by the baboons as they eat them as a delicacy.
But now, you, myself and the “baboon man” are now feeding these baboons our food waste, we are now totally messing up the latter eco-balance I discussed.
Disrupting any eco-balance in the system means either a certain species number diminishes significantly or booms to astonishing numbers.
In our baboon circumstance, the population boom will be visible with poisonous scorpions now because the baboons now have a presumably better alternate of diet from waste bins. These now increased scorpions are the once who now, out of danger from baboons, crawl down to the same areas where the smaller insects feast on our domestic waste. What does that mean? The ultimate influx in scorpions coming to feed on insects feasting on the food waste we throw away means we too are at the risk of scorpion bite incidences.
In their natural habitat without human interactions, baboons are known to be sociable characters within their family bonds. They can be seen grooming each other, adults sitting closely as if conversing over some issue, young adolescent playing hide and seek on trees. All these behavior traits resemble that of our own social behavior and interaction with family members and other people. It is not by mere coincidence or that Jenamo Joel has some powers that these baboons have taken a liking and trust in him.
Personally, as an Environmentalist, animal lover and one who watches Animal Planet and National Geographic Channels religiously on DSTV, I know that animal behavior changes from its natural state once there is human interaction coming into the picture. A similar interaction of people and baboons can be witnessed at the Cape Point “horn of Africa” in the Western Cape South Africa, the place a beautiful tourist resort where people all over the world come to visit.
It is said that is where the two oceans Indian and Atlantic Oceans separate/meet. The rocky mountainous place is full of wilderness species and cape vegetation with the nice cool flow of the Easterly winds.
Again, there are a lot of the Cape Baboons which are very close cousins of Mr Jenamo Joel’s friends inhabiting Kgale Hill.
From personal experience and witness, I have seen these Cape Baboons approaching tourists and snatching food and cell phones from their hands and back packs. These Baboons boldly stroll around tourist areas freely as if they are part of the tour. This type of behavior isn’t coincidental or even anywhere close to the natural behavior of Baboons in their natural habitat.
The Cape Baboons have been behaving like this for many decades since the Cape Point became a tourist attraction resort. Generations after another have been bred in this type of environment and now the baboons have lost their natural way of living, their dietary intake is now of completely human domestic type, food that humans throw away around the waste collection areas.
This exemplary circumstance is exactly what is happening to our Kgale baboons, and the “baboon man” is unconsciously speeding up this type of behavior. In no time, we will have a generation of Kgale baboons strolling with their young around parking areas and even close to shops. This behavior of close human interaction will not be foreign to that generation of baboons, it will be a behavior that would have been genetically evolved into them, seeing humans as a non-threat to their existence.
I don’t want readers out there to think I am criticizing Mr Jenamo Joel “the Baboon Man” for his actions. I totally have the utmost respect for this animal lover who even quit his job to befriend and attain the trust of these wonderful creatures.
He loves and respects these baboons, which to some people are a nuisance. He even asks people not to throw stones at them. He is looking for a sponsor to assist with funds to make a documentary, which I think would be a good project to show Batswana and the world out there.
We see documentaries made in Botswana by foreigners capturing places and animals in Botswana, a local documentary by Batswana, not very far from our door step would be very appealing.
All I am asking is simply that, let all this be research documented to teach Batswana and make them understand that these baboon’s behavior is man-made and very much influenced and a result of our own actions. We need to come to a man-animal agreement as to minimize any further influential interaction with these wild, but nearly domesticated animals.
Ultimately, without proper control by both the Wildlife Department and society at large, we might just have a Game City Baboon invasion. Baboons will snatch our groceries as we push trolleys to the car park areas.