Baboon Matters December 2018 News Letter

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
I first read Margaret Mead’s quote nearly 30 thirty years ago when Wally Petersen and I were putting together one of the Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Group (KEAG) first newsletters.  Over the years this inspirational quote has become well used and pops up in a wide variety of calls to action, blogs and social media posts.
Just recently I have been taking a bit of a hammering as a result of the brutality our baboons have been through this year. In addition, the year-end tasks common to small NPO’s are mounting; there should be an annual report,  a newsletter, funding  proposals going to secure our work in the new year…..
But it is just me trying to cover the range of work we do and  I am battling to respond to all the messages and requests for information and advice – and, to be honest,  I am a tired old war-horse who has been fighting for the baboons for nearly 30 years now so there is definitely some degree of fatigue.
But I am no different than any one of my colleagues who are fighting for animal rights and welfare in a world overwhelmed with crises.  How do we draw attention to the plight of baboons, for example, when plastics threaten the oceans, thousands of lions live in abominable conditions as they are bred for the canned hunting industry, so many stray dogs and cats in urgent need of help,  too many farm murders, and the on-going increases in cost of living?
How do we get community support when the community is every bit as fatigued as we are?
And so I found myself asking, just who are these small groups of thoughtful people, and when are we going to change the world?
I can only really speak to the sector with which I am familiar, the world of primates and particularly fighting for protection for our baboons.  In this sector we are blessed to have exceptionally thoughtful and committed people – the folk who rescue the many orphaned, injured and ill baboons and vervets across SA are some of the unsung heroes of conservation and welfare.  I include conservation and welfare together deliberately as commonly they are considered separately.
In days gone by conservation was considered, in part,  as what was best for the species, for the “bigger picture” and in doing so decisions often negated the welfare of the individual or specific troop of baboons or vervet monkeys.   
In South Africa baboons and vervets are considered to be of “least concern” and welfare issues are seldom considered,  but the question we have to ask is at what point will authorities become concerned?
If we apply the purely conservation model, “concern” is derived from the numbers – the census and population counts.  Ironically, when it comes to baboons, there has never been effective national counts or a census so “bag limits” are based on “best guess” rather than actual accurate data.
But science aside, surely it is beholden on us to show concern before the population is deemed to be in crisis, or “of concern”?  
I would hope that we would show concern for all living beings and apply a thoughtful process whereby consideration of welfare and ethical treatment is not set aside but forms part of all management decisions.
It is my feeling that being labelled as “of least concern” has done a huge disservice to primates.  Across SA it is considered acceptable to kill “damage causing” animals and there is no real concern about potential consequences  to either the troop or species because there is thought to be a sufficient population.
This mindset does not encourage alternative solutions or encourage clever humans to  extend their thinking process to seek out alternatives to killing baboons, instead it is condoned by government to rather just kill individuals, sometime a “bag limit” of 2 per day but in some instances it is considered better to eliminate entire troops – and frequently this elimination process can take extended periods of time, creating pain, stress and suffering for the remaining troop members. And, despite the unethical methods, the pain and suffering – there is never a long term solution in lethal methods of management.
By implementing lethal methods of management the decision makers in authority had expected the general  public to overlook the individual baboon for the “conservation” of the species and cannot understand  either the “kick back” from society (as they vociferously objected to the deaths of individuals such as Dodger,  Fred, William and the 67 other baboons killed  under protocols and guidelines) nor do authorities understand the apathy from residents when it comes to taking responsibility for their own backyards. 
The NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) scenario is still alive and well, and why should residents feel responsible for their impact on baboon behaviour when the message coming through the “system” is  that it is easier and quicker to “kill the individual problem animal”.
The message needs to change – all landowners and residents (people) must take responsibility for their actions – what they buy, how they dispose of the waste generated, what is planted and where and so on, but this process will be greatly speed up if (when?) the government declares it illegal to kill baboons and all primates.
And in writing this I answered my question, who is the small group of thoughtful, committed citizens? The answer is you.  If you are reading this then you are part of my group of concerned citizens.
How can you help with the changes that are needed? One simple way would be to support Baboon Matters as we fight for changes.
At Baboon Matters we were blessed by a bequest from Joan Wrench in 2014.  Her belief in us enabled us to tackle a great deal of work across South Africa, but whilst we have been able to help many people understand baboons, we have not been able to understand how to raise funds successfully.
As I write this we have enough money to pay legal fees necessitated as a result of brutal actions against baboons this year, but thereafter our coffers are dry. 
Unless there is a Christmas miracle this year, Baboon Matters will simply not be able to continue our work next year, certainly not in the manner as we have been. 
So this is a request to all the committed people out there who do support Baboon Matters and our work, please support our fundraising drive and help us to keep playing our role, alongside many others, in the fight to protect our primates and end the killing of baboons.

To support us going into next year and campaigning to Stop Killing Baboons, follow this link to our Global Giving approved project and donate now!

Every little bit helps.

Wishing you the best of this year and an even better new year,

Baboon Matters

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