22 February, 2017
Impact of baboons in timber plantations
Baboons cause substantial losses for citrus, banana, maize, vegetable, macadamia,
avocado, grape and timber farmers.
- The forestry industry works with other farming groups, nature
conservation agencies, environmental bodies and the scientific community,
to ensure that control measures for reducing crop losses from baboons, are
scientifically and ethically sound.
Over recent years, the South African forestry
industry, particularly in Mpumalanga and the southern Cape, has encountered an alarming
increase in damage to commercial timber plantations by baboons. This damage occurs when baboons strip bark off
the trees, causing major deterioration in wood quality and the eventual death
of the tree.
A Baboon Damage Interest Group (BDIG) operates in Mpumalanga
and comprises affected timber growers, provincial nature conservation, the
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife
Trust. It is currently extending its membership to other affected stakeholders,
like the South African Sub-tropical Growers Association and
the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.
This forum convenes regularly to find suitable
management options and has developed a baboon damage protocol that enables affected
timber growers, to use appropriate control measures.
timber plantations have recorded significant financial losses, other
agricultural crops (citrus, banana, maize,
vegetable, avocado, macadamia and grapes) have also been affected.
Baboons lead to significant losses for the timber
industry owing to:
The high reject rate of harvested
timber by sawmills as a result of damage
Escalating fuel, harvesting and replanting costs, due to
volumes of damaged or dead trees left infield
control based on sound science
and our members are committed to ensuring that control measures are based on
sound scientific research, part of which is being undertaken by the Baboon Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.
density in a Mpumalanga study plantation, was found to be more than three times
higher than the neighbouring natural area. Baboon damage seems to occur more
frequently on high productivity sites, where resources are more readily available
and so less time is needed by baboons for foraging.
research shows that where more adult males reside in plantations than in
neighbouring natural habitats, this causes a disruption in social relationships.
Stripping bark seems to centre on the behaviour of stressed baboons due to
these unnatural population ratios.
plantations have sustained greater losses from baboons than from the current
South Africa has engaged the media in an open and transparent manner on the
issue of damage causing animals in forestry. A media statement was issued and
interviews have been given to mainstream media. An interview was also scheduled
with a media entity for Friday 24 February 2017.
to this interview taking place, the media entity with whom FSA had an interview
scheduled and an NGO, who declined ongoing participation in the Baboon Damage
Interest Group, illegally entered the property of one of FSA's members on 20
is disappointed to note this development, especially since FSA and our members
participated openly in coverage of the issue in 2006.
regret further that an interview with the Baboon Damage Interest Group, on
which respected wildlife NGOs are represented, has not yet taken place. This would
have been the logical starting point for anyone seeking an objective
understanding of the issue.
Source: Forestry South Africa