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Fri Dec 19 22:14:42 SAST 2014

Baboon Fred is dead

NASHIRA DAVIDS | 28 March, 2011 21:570 Comments
DANGEROUS DIET: A male baboon forages for food in a rubbish bin at a Cape Town restaurant Picture: PAULA BRONSTEIN/GALLO IMAGES

Fred had the uncanny ability of being able to break into cars in a blink of an eye and feast on food he found there.

Cape Town's Baboon Operational Group made the "difficult" decision to kill the male baboon on Friday because he would stop at nothing to get his sugary treats.

"Unfortunately, this baboon's demise can be attributed mainly to the continuous misguided efforts by humans to befriend and feed baboons," the group said.

Mark Duffell, who works for the Black Marlin restaurant, said he spoke to Fred before he was trapped.

"I said to him, 'Please, go . run up the mountain so I can buy some more time for you'.

"But he knew they were coming. He was the alpha male in the troop and just before he was trapped he gave his two babies to Merlin - his right-hand man - to take care of."

City of Cape Town veterinarian Elzette Jordan said baboons had developed illnesses by eating human food. Many in the Cape Peninsula were overweight, though Fred was not.

She said Fred became dangerous. When he heard motorists unlock their vehicles with a remote control, he would open the door and dash inside before the owner reached the car.

"He has bitten quite a few people. He scratched many. He jumped on the field manager.

"He got on the roof of a car and he would launch himself onto that person, especially if they tried to keep him away from cars," said Jordan.

He even got inside cars in which babies were strapped in a car seat, terrifying them.

Another male in Fred's Smitswinkel troop, Jimmy, is addicted to sugar and is fat, having been brought up on a diet of stale bread and doughnuts donated to a homeless shelter.

"Some were concerned that he was diabetic but, at the last test, 18 months ago, it was confirmed that he wasn't. He was just about raised on doughnuts," Jordan said.

At last count, there were more than 420 baboons living in the Cape Peninsula. Jordan said that, in the coming weeks, a researcher would be brought in to catch and do blood tests on the baboons.

Baboons usually prefer food rich in carbohydrates and protein. Those who rob homes guzzle eggs because the food they find in nature is poor in protein. Cape Peninsula baboons boost their protein intake by eating seafood and picking mussels from rocks.

Jenni Trethowan, of baboon-aid group Baboon Matters, said she did not think it had been necessary to kill Fred, who spent most of his time near a restaurant and boat club where the waste management was an "absolute disaster".

"They could have managed the situation better by tidying waste, training monitors to be more assertive with people so that they stay in their car and by training monitors to deal with Fred without backing down," she said.

A wake will be held for Fred in Simon's Town on Friday at 6.30pm.

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