The Department of Wildlife has warned ‘the baboon man’, Jenamo Joel, who has for a long time become a close friend to baboons that reside in the vicinity of Kgale Hill, telling him that he plays with wild animals at his own risk.
Young, tall and muscular, Joel, from Sinete Village in the north-east district, says he has become a very close friend to the baboons since eight years ago when he started feeding and playing with them in broad daylight.
Interviewed by Sunday Standard, Joel, 25, commonly known as Raditshwene, strongly dismissed the warning from the Department of Wildlife that baboons are unpredictable.
“It all started sometime around 2002 when I was working at Payless Supermarket in Game City,” he said.
Joel explained that he went near the hill and heard a terrible noise that he thought was a snake but when he got close he found an injured baboon.
“I was so touched when I saw it crying because it was injured on both the front and back legs.”
He said at that time, he had an apple with him then gave the apple to the baboon, which took and ate it.
He said while it was eating, he tried to communicate with it and to comfort it.
Joel said he fed the animal with both apples and bananas for about two weeks during his lunch break.
After two weeks, ha said, he went to the usual place where the injured baboon always stayed as it recuperated but he found it gone.
“I did not know what to do but then I decided to imitate them at which I managed,” he said.
He, however, said a group of them, including the injured one which was leading the others, responded and came toward his direction.
He said he then fell in love with the animals and started to learn more about baboons.
“Every time when I visit them at the hill, I first feed them and then play with them; it is a lot of fun playing with such animals,” he said, adding that even when he is not carrying foods, the animals will come to him when he calls them.
He warned the public not to throw stones at baboons and appealed to the members of the public that he wants a sponsor to assist him with funds to make a documentary of how he communicates and lives with baboons.
After the interview, ‘Raditshwene’ took Sunday Standard team to the hill where he showed us how he communicates with the animals.
On our way to the Hill, he had to pass by Kgale Spar Supermarket where he appeared well known by the employees who called him Raditshwene as they gave him a box of rotten bananas and apples for his mountain friends.
At the hill he called them and in just a few minutes, a number of them emerged and went straight to him to take their share.
Speaking to The Sunday Standard, the Wildlife Officer in Gaborone, Alba Orapeleng, said, “We are not aware of such a man.”
He added, “It is unlawful to feed wild animals and one could be prosecuted for doing that.”
He said baboons are unpredictable therefore they could cause him harm.
“If it happens that those baboons hurt him, one way or the other, he will not get any compensation because he does that at his own risk.
He discouraged the public to stop the tendency of feeding baboons even if they have leftovers.
Meanwhile the manager of Kgale Spar said, “My shop offers Radiotshwene foods that are not suitable for human consumption,“ he said.
Employees of a construction company at the quarry near the Hill told Sunday Standard they were shocked when they saw Raditshwene surrounded by a group of baboons.