Saturday, December 11, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted for so long but I was disempowered.
One of my charming, well-furred neighbours unplugged me.

Who me?
Chacma baboon, Papio ursinus. Photo by Arno & Louise Meintjes.

An electricity cable that's been tugged from its socket by mischievous paws should be simple to fix, or so you'd think. Unfortunately, the furry culprit executed this fell deed at the very apex of the power-pole outside my house.

Handymen gathered from far and wide to stand and stare at the pole and shake their heads.
"No way to get up there."
"You need a trained monkey" someone quipped (grrr!).

So I've just had to wait - electricity-free - until a team of electricians could come out from town with their whizz-bang pole-climbing equipment (i.e. a VERY long ladder).

And let me tell you, the wait has not been pretty. I've no idea how people coped before the advent of electricity: thawing pet meat, sour milk, first-degree burns, candle wax dribbled everywhere, singed eyebrows (my camping stove is frighteningly unpredictable) and bruised limbs (from tripping over cats who refuse to believe they're invisible in candle-lit gloom).

Still, I do enjoy having the baboons around, and they're normally well-behaved. We did have a couple of tense weeks when I first moved in. The baboons lounged on the garden fence taunting my madly barking dogs, and every now and again a swaggering adolescent male would leap down and dash across the yard; dogs in frenzied pursuit. I didn't witness the denouement of this saga (thankfully), but I suspect it was painful for both parties: the baboons now stay well clear of the fence and my dogs pointedly ignore them, refusing to chase any baboon, even when we're out walking.

Of course I know baboons can be problematic. The youngsters love to play on roofs for example. On my iron shed roof, they beat out a rackety tattoo as they leap and wrestle, but on my landlord's roof of thatch, they clasp fistfuls of straw as they race up and down the steep pitch, tearing out great tufts of roofing as they go.
Still, others have it worse.

Hmm, I've never driven an automatic before... Photo by Tim Ellis.

The driver of this car pulled over to photograph the view on the scenic drive to Cape Point (the peninsula south of Cape Town). Unfortunately, the car doors weren't locked, and the baboon opened a rear door and hopped in. This photograph was taken after the driver and passenger had fled out the front doors, leaving their car to the baboon.


  1. Possums are bad enough, I can't imagine what a couple of lively baboons would sound like on the roof!

    Now that they've worked out how to unplug the electricity, are they likely to do it again for the lulz?

  2. Great photos. I am glad that your dogs ignore the baboons now. When I worked for a vet in Zimbabwe I saw the damage that they did to 3 very large dogs, it was horrible. Two survived but the third did not make it.

    It is amazing how when we have not got some thing we take for granted how difficult life can become!! Diane

  3. I enjoyed watching a big male Chacma break into the communal kitchen at my lodging in Mkuze Park in Kwazulu Natal. It threw pots and pans everywhere and scattered the garbage far and wide. I could have stopped it but the scene was just too entertaining to watch. Dont they break into your house?

  4. Amazing! It convinces me yet again of the myriad opportunities to work with non-human animals as accomplices in the commission of crimes (I've already got plans for a mantis shrimp). Clearly, a whole car-thief business could be set up here. The trick, of course, would be getting the baboons to collaborate rather than just joy-riding off into the sunset...

  5. Snail,
    I'm profoundly grateful that baboons are diurnal. This means that one isn't trying to sleep through the racket, and - more importantly - the effects of electricity disconnection aren't overtly obvious. I know you were joking, but these guys are frighteningly SMART. If they'd witnessed all my lights going off and the sounds of my TV dying, when they pulled the plug, I've little doubt they'd try it again at the earliest opportunity.

    The large male baboons certainly are scary; you wouldn't catch me chasing one!

    Many of the landowners around here shoot baboons so the local troop is too wary to come into the house. When they're pottering nearby, they usually ignore me, provided I show no sign of aggression (even just swearing at my computer is enough to make them all flee in panic).

    I think it's advisable that you stick to mantis shrimp when orchestrating your life of crime. Collaborating with baboons would be like collaborating with the Mafia. Your accomplices wouldn't just go joy-riding, they'd have stripped the vehicle and sold off the parts before you could say 'Dumb animal'.


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