A Fed Baboon Is A Dead Baboon

10th July 2010

Foreign tourists visiting our beautiful country are delighted by the opportunity to see wild animals so close without even having to be in a nature reserve. Either to help the wild animals survive, or more likely for the chance of taking a very good picture, it is not uncommon for "innocent" visitors to give the baboons part of their lunch.

And that seemingly innocent gesture can be the start of big big trouble. So why shouldn't anybody (foreigner or South African) ever feed a baboon (and in fact any wild animal)?

1. First of all, feeding baboon is illegal and there are many road signs everywhere to remind you of it. Ignoring those signs could get you into trouble with the law and you might have to pay a heavy fine. But this first reason is, in my opinion, the least important one of all.

2. By feeding wild animals, you are not actually helping them. You are making them dependent on human help to survive. In touristic Kenya, baboons have learned to wait for the tourists' treats along the roads that connect airports to hotels. As hard as it is to say that (I am an animal lover too), if a wild animal can't survive without your help, it is probably not meant to survive...

3. Baboons are not only wild animals, and should be respected as such (any wild animal can potentially be dangerous), but they can be big, strong, and aggressive. A male baboon can weigh some 40 kilos, his teeth are longer than a leopard, and he will readily use them, especially if he feels he, or his troop, is in danger. Bsides, you seldom find a baboon alone, the big dominant male mentioned above might well have a whole troop to back him. By feeding baboons, you are putting yourself, and the people in your group in danger.

4. Baboons that are fed by humans lose all fear of them. They venture closer and closer to homes and cars in search of food, and won't hesitate to come inside: two big baboons broke through a roof in Constancia a few months ago and in Cape Point, where baboons have become a real nuisance and a real danger, they open doors of cars and enter, even when there are passengers inside. By feeding baboons, you are creating long-lasting problems for future tourists and local people.

5. Most South African hold those beautiful and highly clever monkeys in very low esteem and won't hesitate to shoot them on sight if they come near their property or to poison them. By making baboons think of humans as providers of food, you are not helping baboons as well. Their reputation and conflicting cohabitation with humans will only deteriorate further, and result, more often than not, in the fall of the baboon...

So the simple and maybe innocent gesture of feeding a biscuit or an apple to a baboon gradually leads to the death of the baboon: "A Fed Baboon is a Dead Baboon".