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Sat Sep 20 16:03:53 SAST 2014

Baboons listen for car alarms

Sapa | 21 July, 2010 15:550 Comments

Baboons on the Cape Peninsula have long known how to open the doors of tourists' cars in search of food. But now they listen for the "tweet tweet" of remote door locking before deciding whether to bother, a Cape Town city official says.

The city's manager for destination development Theuns Vivian was speaking following a media briefing at which he said the municipality was trying to get national government to approve an official baboon warning sign.

"People stop their vehicles, and the vehicles get damaged," he said.

"Or they get out of their vehicles, and these baboons are highly intelligent animals. They're waiting for the sound of the car alarm.

"If they don't hear the 'tweet tweet' they make for the door.

"So the tourists get out of the vehicle, they stand amazed at the vista and the view, and the baboons go for the door, and say, 'well, that door's not locked'.

"They are so intelligent: they wait for the noise of the alarm system. So we need to educate our tourists."

Vivian said the city had asked the national department of transport to add a baboon warning sign to its menagerie of official road signs.

He said the city wanted a triangle with a red rim carrying a picture of a baboon, similar to those showing kudu, elephant, warthog and hippo.

"We're making proposals to national government to include it in the road ordinances so that we can warn people when there are baboons crossing the road... or in the area," he said.

"And also to ask people to act responsibly.

"We've put up [other] signs to warn them that these are dangerous animals, and you still have people trying to pose for a photograph next to a baboon with fangs the size of a cheetah's."

Cars and robbers

There had been complaints about drivers speeding through troops of baboons.

Baboons also got into cars and 'stole' food, cameras and other valuables.

Vivian said that currently the only warning triangle the city could put up was one carrying an exclamation mark, and the word "baboons" underneath it.

Existing green-and-white "informative" signs warning people abut baboons were not enough.

These could by law be set up only some distance from the road edge, where they did not obstruct the view or the driver's attention.

The council wanted the warnings as a road sign, on the verge of the road.

He said Cape Town was trying to educate tourists about baboons both through signage, and through "dos and don'ts" included on maps and in visitor guides.

"We value our baboons, and we value our tourists. We'd like to have a nice symbiosis."

Environmentalists say the territory available to baboons on the peninsula has shrunk with the expansion of the urban edge.

Residents of some suburbs regularly report incursions of the primates into built-up areas.





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