The controversy over the relocation of a well-known baboon in the Cape Peninsula is inspiring the works of some local artists. They have added their voices to the ongoing saga using their paint brushes and photography.

The relocation of Kataza, also known as SK11, from his Slangkop troop in Kommetjie to Tokai has cast the spotlight on baboon management in the region.

Much-loved baboon known as “Kataza” or SK11 relocated: 

Living in close proximity to the ocean as well as the picturesque natural wild is what draws many people to invest in property in Betty’s Bay, Western Cape.

Living in the area, however, also means sharing the neighbourhood with baboons. For some, they are an irritation but for others, an inspiration.

Award-winning wildlife photographer, Pete Oxford is one of those inspired by the baboons in the area.

“My mission is conservation. My mission is to increase biodiversity and help biodiversity. It’s being lost at a tremendous rate. With baboons in mind, we are using photography of the baboons here to create empathy and show them as the individuals that they are.”

Oxford’s photograph in turn inspired another local artist from Betty’s Bay to capture this moment between a mother and baby taken from the local baboon troop.

Artist Antoinette Coetzee, known as Amira, says she tries to capture emotion in her painting of animals.

“If I my paint my animals, I try to paint my animals to give emotion, to see the hurt in their eyes and to talk via the painting about what is happening with them at the moment. I paint with my soul and I want to paint with my soul to give the people the message of the animals that are suffering at the moment. They were here first before us and we must just learn to appreciate them and live with them.”

An oil on canvas is currently on silent auction to raise funds for the NGO, Baboon Matters.

Artists are also coming up with innovative, positive solutions to lessen the conflict arising from living in close proximity to wild animals.

Sculptor Cornelia Stroop has come up with a design to solve one of the biggest headaches of living in close proximity to baboons by introducing baboon-proof rubbish bins in nearby Pringle Bay.

“Seeing that there was no proper mechanism for securing bins here in the Overstrand, we decided to weld a frame. It worked well; we have never had any problems, it supports the whole of the lid and you only need to fasten one clip to open and close the bin,” says Stroop.

Orders for her baboon-proof bins are streaming in from residents.

“In this specific sculpture, I portrayed the baboon in its absolute natural state. You can recognise it as a baboon instantly, but not us as humans. The two are sitting playing a game, we are masked up. On our way to space, you can almost not recognise the figure as being human, so it poses the questions: where are we going? We are moving so far from our heritage. We need to move back to our roots for our own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the planet. We are part of it, not separate from it and if we destroy it, we will destroy ourselves,” Stroop adds.

The catastrophic loss of the planet’s biodiversity is changing the way that science and conservationists are looking at preventing the loss of baboon species. Some believe that a more integrative approach is needed where the welfare, value and respect of one individual animal needs to be recognized.

Meanwhile, the reintegration of Kataza into the Tokai baboon troop is ongoing.