Animal Behavior

In the Course of Time, the Supreme Court Came to Consist of Nine Purple-Assed Baboons


Baboon battles break out in South Africa:

Conflicts between baboons and humans in the suburbs of prosperous Cape Town have gotten so bad that monitoring teams have been deployed to keep the animals away.

The large monkeys invade people's homes in the coastal Table Mountain region, sometimes confronting people who try to scare the baboons off.

Some residents have retaliated by shooting and poisoning baboons and by running them over on local roads.

The situation has also caused rifts within communities. In a suburb ironically named Welcome Glen, rival societies have formed, with some trying to protect the baboons and others wanting them removed or killed.

"We sometimes get into standoffs [with neighbors]," said Rose Ashley, a member of the Welcome Glen Environment Group, which is pro-baboon….

Joan Laing is co-chair of the rival Welcome Glen Baboon-Free Neighbourhood Action Group. She says the animals are a menace.

"They break windows to get into houses," Laing said. "They even know how to open doors. And once inside, they make a mess. They empty the fridge, ruin furniture, and defecate all over."

The root cause, of course, is imperialism:

The source of the problem is human encroachment into the baboons' historic habitat….

Baboons, [animal advocate Jenni Trethowan] says, are primarily defenders, not attackers.

True, a baboon bit a tourist when she tried to grab back an ice cream that the baboon had grabbed from the woman. But generally the monkeys will not attack unless cornered or threatened.

For more on the politics of baboonery, turn to William Burroughs' classic account of the FDR years, Roosevelt After Inauguration. Warning: not safe for work, unless your office or workshop will tolerate Burroughs' gravelly voice describing a simian judge "shitting and pissing and masturbating on the table."