When you go hiking in the wild areas around Cape Town, you will need to take good note and take notice of the signs warning you about the baboons. While they appear so human-like and quite comical, they are in fact wild animals and often act as such. There are very good reasons why signs say “Do not Feed the Baboons”.
Baboons are apes. There are five different species that vary in size and coloring. All have tails and walk on all fours, or stand upright at times. While the rest of their bodies are covered with coarse, thick, gray or brown/black hair, they all have protruding bare buttocks. They have “dog-like” snouts with powerful jaws and big yellow teeth, which they will bare as a sign of aggression.
Baboons have become accustomed to humans, and as opportunists, they see humans as a source of food. They eat mostly fruits and roots and, on occasion, small animals. They are omnivorous and will grab whatever they find in the way of food.
The natural habitat of baboons is the woodlands and grasslands of Africa, but due to urban encroachment, they have in some cases become used to the presence of people. They have become familiar with buildings and cars.
They can also set up camp anywhere so long as there are water and shelter.
It is fairly common for baboons to attack a group of hikers in order to raid the food supply. There are certain aspects of the way that they behave that you should understand.
Baboons live in family groups known as troops. If you see one baboon, you can be sure that the family of up to 50 members is close by.
Baboons do not want to eat you, but they can attack if you have something that they want, mainly food but also other objects that take their interest. They will also defend their territory or the rest of the troop; in fact, the alpha male and other large adult males may put on a very brave display to keep you away from those they protect.
If a baboon grabs your food do not attempt to retrieve it, as baboons will fight aggressively to defend their loot. Their bite can break bones or even kill. Do not ever feed a baboon or tempt one closer with food or other objects.
Baboons may put up a mock charge and vocalize a threat, only backing off when they are very close. Do not run, but stand still and do not bare your teeth, smile, or look them straight in the eyes – this will be seen as a sign of aggression and could provoke them. It is imperative that you act in a calm, non-threatening way and back away without turning around.
When baboons are close, keep food securely in your backpack and do not use pepper spray as that could also provoke an attack..
Never walk through a group even if they are minding their own business. Rather, walk around them, giving them a wide berth. If they are blocking your path, you could try making loud noises to encourage them to move along, but be prepared to unclip your backpack and run.