22 July 2009

South Africa: Two Held for Pit-Bull Attack on Baboon

Two men have been arrested and face charges of animal cruelty for allegedly allowing their two pit-bull dogs to attack a 20-year-old baboon in full view of dozens of onlookers in Kommetjie.

The male baboon, named Eric and probably the best-known of all the Peninsula's 400-odd baboons, is in a serious condition with wounds to his neck and the lower part of his body.

Veterinarians are only expected to operate once his condition stabilises.

According to Dalton Gibbs of the City of Cape Town's nature conservation department, two men had been walking their dogs on Kommetjie Main Road when they spotted the ageing Eric and let their dogs loose.

It is alleged that before the men let their dogs off their leashes, they goaded them, telling the dogs to "get him, get him". Gibbs said the men, believed to be from Ocean View, then walked the dogs closer to Eric and deliberately released them.

"According to eyewitnesses, the dogs were held to watch the baboon and then they were taken closer and released.

"This was not a case of the baboon being on someone's property," he said.

It is believed that dozens of onlookers witnessed the attack and that when they "made a big scene" the men were forced to call the dogs off from their attack on Eric.

"There are quite a few eyewitnesses and they have provided us with affidavits," Gibbs said.

Marlei Martins of Baboon Matters, the non-profit company that had acted as service provider managing the baboon monitors until recently, expressed outrage at the attack.

There are still no monitors on duty because of delays in getting a new management contract operational.

"This is a very serious offence," Martins said.

Speaking to the Cape Argus last night from the Sun Valley veterinary clinic where Eric is being treated, Martins said the animal had lost a lot of blood during the attack.

"He lost so much blood and suffered wounds to his neck and legs, he was trying to protect his tummy," she said.

Martins said the public should realise violence "has never solved anything".

"He was on his own and defenceless. People need to start realising that violence has never solved any problem and it never will," she said.

Martins also said a new baboon monitoring programme should come into effect as early as next month.

The monitors have been off the job since the end of June when their contract expired, and although the City of Cape Town has approved R2 million in bridging finance for baboon management in hotspot areas until the end of next year, the monitors' new contracts are not yet in place.

Martins said a management contract had now been signed with a new service provider, the local company Nature Conservation Corporation.

"We hope (they) will move swiftly in getting monitors back into the field," she said.

Eric was the leader of the Kommetjie baboon troop for many years until he was ousted by a younger, stronger male.

Among the many incidents in which he was involved was a 2007 shopping spree with his son Aneli.

Then, the baboon father and son strolled into a Friendly Seven Eleven in Muizenberg and helped themselves to food as staff looked on in amazement.

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