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Monkey Management: Using Spatial Ecology to Understand the Extent and Severity of Human–Baboon Conflict in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

Tali S Hoffman, University of Cape Town
M Justin O'Riain, University of Cape Town

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04882-170313

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Abstract

Conflict with humans poses one of the greatest threats to the persistence and survival of all wildlife. In the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, human–baboon conflict levels remain high despite substantial investment by conservation authorities in a variety of mitigation measures. Here we explore how spatial ecology can inform wildlife managers on the extent and severity of both current and projected human–baboon conflict. We apply conservative and generous densities—2.3 and 5.9 baboons/km2—to hypothetical landscape management scenarios to estimate whether the chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) population in the Cape Peninsula is currently overabundant. We correlate conflict indices with spatial variables to explain intertroop differences in conflict levels. We investigate how an understanding of key elements of baboon ecology, including sleeping-site characteristics and intertroop territoriality, can direct management efforts and mitigate conflict. Our findings suggest that the current population of 475 baboons is below even the most conservative density estimate and that the area could potentially sustain up to 799 baboons. Conflict levels correlated positively with the loss of access to low-lying land through habitat transformation (Pearson r = 0.77, p = 0.015, n = 9 troops), and negatively with the distance of sleeping sites from the urban edge (Pearson r = 0.81, p = 0.001, n = 9 troops). Despite the availability of suitable sleeping sites elsewhere, more than half of all troops slept <500 m from the urban edge, resulting in increased spatial overlap and conflict with residents. Evidence for intertroop territoriality suggested that troop removal to mitigate human–baboon conflict would only be a short-term solution because neighboring troops are predicted to usurp the vacated home range and thus perpetuate the cycle of conflict. Together these findings suggest that an understanding of wildlife spatial ecology in a semi-urban context can be used to identify current and predicted landscape-level causes of human–baboon conflict. This information can be used to formulate sustainable long-term landscape management and conservation plans so that less costly and controversial direct wildlife management is required, and so ultimately fewer animals and humans suffer the costs of conflict.

Key words

Cape Peninsula, South Africa; chacma baboon; human–baboon conflict; human–wildlife conflict; monkey management; spatial ecology; wildlife management
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087