Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

The cost of conservation, conflict and welfare in a commensal baboon population, South Africa. (#284)

Esme Beamish 1 , M. Justin O'Riain 1
  1. The Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Province, South Africa

Primate populations  are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation yet behavioural and dietary flexibility in baboons (Papio sp.) have enabled them to thrive in select anthropogenic landscapes through access to nutritious food and the elimination of natural predators. On the Cape peninsula, South Africa, the baboon population (Papio ursinus) is geographically isolated and persists within a fragmented matrix  of housing, agriculture and natural land.  Chronic levels of conflict exist between baboons and people and between people on how best to manage them. Concerns about the viability of the population led to legislation to protect the baboons and the implementation of an intensive management program using field rangers and pain aversion to minimise the overlap of baboons and people, thus reducing conflict. In this study we review the development of baboon management and conservation strategies by analysing long-term demographic data for the population, including injuries and mortality. Our results reveal  steady growth in the overall population but with marked regional variation linked to both land use and socioeconomic factors. Human-induced injuries and death have both declined substantially which together with facilitated dispersal is improving the welfare and conservation status of the population.  Reduced human-caused mortality of baboons in the absence of natural predators is predicted to stimulate rapid population growth in an expanding city. Management will need to consider alternate options including contraception, removal of individuals or groups and intensive efforts to reduce access to anthropogenic food sources.  The Peninsula baboon population exemplifies how omnivorous, generalist mammals can adapt to anthropogenic environments.