A baboon outside Cape Town, South Africa has been thrown in the clink by local authorities for organizing with other local baboons a series of home raids.
The Associated Press reports that Kataza the baboon already had a lengthy rap sheet with local authorities before he was captured. Kataza is now sleeping in a prison cell. Animal-rights activists on social media have organized a campaign to free the primate, using the hashtag #BringBackKataza.
Kataza is only one of several hundred urban baboons living around Cape Town that remain a general nuisance to locals as they storm human properties stealing food, knocking over garbage cans, and snatching produce from local gardens. The local baboon population lives in the rocky mountainsides surrounding Cape Town but often comes into the city to scavenge and cause trouble. Experts say roughly 500 individuals from 15 troops inhabit the area around Cape Town.
Authorities have been left befuddled on how to deal with the monkey problem. The most quarrelsome primates are sometimes euthanized. Cape Town has a Baboon Technical Team, and wildlife rangers often chase baboons away from human areas by shooting paintball guns at them, reports the AP.
Activists now claim that Kataza has been unfairly targeted by authorities. Jenni Trethowan of Baboon Matters, a conservative group in Cape Town, says humans and baboons need to learn to coexist.
“He’s no worse than any of the other baboons. He’s just an urban baboon,” Trethowan said.
Trethowan has spent years observing Kataza, according to the AP, and says the baboon is “depressed.”
“He lowers himself over the prison wall, or just ambles through the gate,” she said.
But authorities say Kataza has been troublesome for quite some time. In April, they say, he raided five occupied homes. Then in July and August he led his troop of 15 baboons through Kommetjie, a seaside village on Cape Town’s southern peninsula, on several raids.
“He generally solicited other individuals to join him in raiding town,” Kataza’s rap sheet says, according to a South African newspaper that viewed the document.
Animal-rights activists such as Trethowan say the local baboons are being criminalized for simply being baboons. She advises simple measures such as baboon-proof trash cans.
“Baboons are criminalized for things that baboons do normally,” she said. “They are just opportunistic foragers.”