• Carol

Something nasty in the drinking water

Chacma baboons are endemic to southern Africa. There are two troops on our farm, one of which is around fifty individuals. They can get exceptionally large, and a male baboon can weigh up to 45 kg. They are opportunistic feeders, and hang around, hoping to sneak in a free meal from the houses. They eat lizards, eggs, small birds, grass, mushrooms, leaves, veggies, seeds. We have never encouraged or fed them, in fact we chase them away by hooting, shouting, making loud noises, or taking aim (unsuccessfully every time!) with a catapult. We would like to live in harmony with them, but they do make it difficult at times because we cannot explain the rules of the game.

Our water is pumped from the mountain stream up around 200m to water tanks, and gravity fed to our houses.

When our water pump broke two years ago, we were without water for about 10 days. We got water from our neighbor, by pumping from their dam into a 250l water tank on the back of the bakkie (pickup). With temperatures regularly hitting 40 degrees, and thirty horses on the farm, a few trips a day to collect water were needed.

Once the pump was fixed and our tanks full, we noticed a strange color and then smell coming from the water. We discovered a drowned and partially decomposed baboon floating in one of the tanks!

After much drama and retching, we called the local hospital and were assured that we would not die of baboon-contaminated water. We then had to figure out how to remove chap from the tank! Two men helped us drag the baboon through the opening and over the cliff. Not a pleasant task, as you can imagine. They are so human-like after all.

Then came the challenging work of cleaning the tanks out with bleach once the pump was working again.

Baboons are curious and destructive animals. They love sitting on the top of water tanks and pulling pipes loose. We figure they were playing on the tank, and one landed up inside.

On one occasion, I had a baboon house invasion. My own fault - I left the door open and of course it must have sauntered in. On seeing itself in the bathroom mirror, it must have got the fright of its life and obviously attacked the “stranger” on the wall. Glass was strewn all over the bathroom.

Unfortunately, they also kill chickens and raid the veggie patch, so baboon watch is a constant in our lives.

Baboons have been known to kill dogs. Our dogs are not allowed to chase the baboons, and there are two big males who cause us grief. The one has long grey fur which ripples like ripe meadow grass on the wind. These big guys are sneaky, always hanging around, watching, and waiting - sitting in a tree just out of “cattie” range - for someone to leave their house open again.