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LEDET: People have the right to live in a harmless environment

The Bendor baboon was shot recently and Ledet spokesperson Zaid Kalla confirmed they obtained permission from the police to make use of a firearm.

POLOKWANE – The Department of Environment (Ledet) this week confirmed that the baboon that has been roaming the neighbourhood of Bendor for close to a month, was shot in an effort to ensure a safe environment for residents and that all alternatives to shooting had been either considered or implemented.

The primate was first spotted in the neighbourhood on August 10, with social media abuzz with those giving advice on how to approach the animal.

Ledet spokesperson, Zaid Kalla told Polokwane Observer that the baboon’s presence among residents was considered unsafe, especially since the animal had stayed in the area longer than expected.

Also read: Ledet ‘working tirelessly’ to remove baboon from Bendor

Shortly after the first sighting of the baboon, Polokwane Observer contacted Wenessa Nunes, who is familiar with primates, who said the animal is likely to pass through the neighbourhood and should best not be approached.

“Polokwane happens to be in the middle of their habitat. The worst thing to do is to try and capture, approach or follow it. Residents should also not attempt to feed the primate as it is likely to then return,” she said.

Kalla, however said that if the animal wanted to move out of the area, it would have done so by now.

He said the advice Nunes offered at the time is acknowledged, but it that it is impossible to predict the animal’s behaviour.

The department’s approach, he said, was to apply the principle that people have the right to live in an environment that is not harmful to their well-being.

“Adult baboons are nearly impossible to rehabilitate and be released back into the wild, as baboons are sociable animals with a strong troop structure. If, and only if a baboon is very small can it be integrated into a troop. The problem is that rehabilitated baboons have lost their fear for humans and if released, will venture to human settlements to get food. This poses a risk not only to humans but other animals too.”

Initially, the department requested two animal rehabilitation centres to assist in capturing the baboon.

Kalla says one facility did not get back to them after several attempts by several officials to contact them, and the other facility was not prepared to help, saying the animal should be euthanised after incidents of suspected attacks became known.

These attacks could, however not be confirmed.

The department then placed a trap in Bendor Village where the baboon was seen in the days leading up to September 12.

Also read: Bendor baboon: Department says trap set, no shots fired

This, however, was unsuccessful and more drastic steps had to be taken, Kala said.

“We suspect that the baboon might have been kept in a cage for some time before it was freed, or escaped from captivity and was used to living in an area close to where people stay. It also moved around a lot over a large area and did not stay in one place for long.”

He added that baboons are known to be dangerous when cornered, which could have happened at any given time.

“We had options in place to capture the animal alive by either darting or by making use of the capture cage. These options were explored but proved to be impossible. Shooting was another option as the animal needed to be removed from the environment before it could endanger the lives of humans.”

Kalla confirmed that they had obtained permission from the police to make use of a firearm.

“We followed the necessary safety rules to make sure no one was harmed during the operation,” he concluded.

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