People and Baboons in Cape Town: Rethinking Interactions with Wildlife in Urban Areas

Humans and wildlife live in increasing proximity, which leads to negative human-wildlife interactions. Management efforts are often focused on “controlling” species that are considered problematic, often downplaying, or even neglecting the perceptions and values of affected communities. There are many ideas about what human-wildlife interactions should look like and these are constantly evolving alongside our values. These ideas are essential for informed and legitimate wildlife management.

This study investigates what type of human-baboon interactions residents from seven baboon-visited areas in Cape Town want. Using Q-method the results showed that there are two main perspectives: Learning to Live with Baboons and Learning to Effectively Control and Manage Baboons. These are motivated by different sets of values. Learning to Live with Baboons is focused on the natural and social outcomes recognizing the agency of the humans and baboons. In contrast, Learning to Effectively Control and Manage Baboons focuses on maintaining a stable state of society while perceiving nature as something that can be controlled. Despite differences, the two perspectives have several points of the agreement including the end of abusive language toward baboons, recognition of context and value differences, and establishment of collaborative conflict resolution processes.

The study also explores how values shape the broader relationships that people wish to have with wildlife and how these can shift depending on the context. Finally, the practice of reflexivity is suggested as one of the steps toward more inclusive human-baboon governance. The thesis concludes by recognizing that subjective perceptions of human-baboon interactions are not pure dichotomies, but rather a complex web of agreements and disagreements, each being a manifestation of different subjective realities.