Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baboons and other pests

Living along the coast near to Cape Point, we are held hostage in our homes all year round by the baboons. One does not mind keeping all windows and doors shut tight in the winter, but on a hot summer day, it is really annoying, to say the least. When we go out, even just for a walk down to the postboxes in the middle of the village, we have to block off our cat door, which means that our cats are trapped inside for the duration (and since we are forced to leave out a litter-tray when we leave, the cats become lazy to go outside at other times.)

Should we ever forget to secure the house completely, we can be sure to return to some blood-boiling sights!

Have you noticed how certain types of fruit trees are few and far between these days. When last did you see a fully-laden mulberry tree or a loquat tree in a garden? I remember these from childhood, when people had large gardens and there were no supermarkets. Even if growing a fruit tree takes too long, I dream of growing just a few vegetables in my garden.

Another baboon-inflicted limitation on our freedom is directed at our garden. It is impossible to grow vegetables of any kind, as well as certain flowers and plants. Heaven forbid that you should have a tree which bears fruit of any description, including indigenous trees. These serve as a magnet, drawing them into the village. One's neighbours tend to become irate at this and in frustration, you begin to wonder whether you should pull everything out and cover with concrete!

The baboon known as Splitlip enjoys the fruits of his burglary
At one stage, we built a wooden framework and covered it with shade cloth  as a barrier to the baboons, and then planted out some lettuce and strawberries within. How naive of us! It is nothing for a baboon to bite and tear the shade-cloth and devastate the entire crop in a few minutes. Shortly after that, an incident where an alpha-male baboon tore apart our door to enlarge the cat-door opening in order to get into our house, highlighted our futility. Access to the contents of a  locked fridge presented no problem either. They are very strong creatures.

I can imagine how a farmer must feel when his harvest of grapes is plundered either by baboons or the informal fruit-sellers in De Doorns, or when a troop of baboons moves onto corn or onion fields.

Somebody told me that baboons do not like spinach. Delightedly, I planted out baby spinach and they grew into beautiful bunches but before I could pick them, the baboons passed through the garden. While they might not eat the leaves, they do like the stem-base of the plant. Their harvesting method is to pull the entire plant out, take a huge bite of the lower stem and then abandon leaves and roots in the "slagveld". 

This year I grew some spinach and strawberries in pots in our little sunroom where we normally final-dry our winter washing. It has worked quite well but as the days warm up now, the room is too hot and leaving a window open for fresh air is not an option.  I also germinated some seeds of Dragon Fruit, Tree Tomato and Pomegranate and planted them out in some multi-pot trays (which my neighbour's landscaper had discarded).

What I did not realise when I put all these pots and multi-pot trays into the sun-room  was that there were 2 worms and 2 snails hiding in or on the pots and the devastation they caused was huge, way out of proportion to their size. They must have thought that they had died and gone to heaven when they found themselves trapped inside with all those tender plants. I lost two trays of Dragon Fruit babies, some Tree Tomato seedlings and a few heads of baby lettuce before I discovered and banished them.

The Survivors
Baby Tree Tomato
Baby Dragon Fruit


  1. LOL How are we going to barter with you if we both grow the same plants?

    The fact that you can't keep baboons away from veggies makes me wonder how we are going to grow them on the farm. My shade cloth "veggie patch" is not going to suffice...

  2. Growing the same plants means that you have a back-up supply when baboons or other disasters befall your plants! Will e-mail you a photo of someone's baboon proof structure. Its more costly and more work than shade cloth!