A Low-Cost Manipulation of Food Resources Reduces Spatial Overlap Between Baboons (Papio ursinus) and Humans in Conflict
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Competition over food and space is a primary driver of human–wildlife conflict. In the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) have adapted to a human-modified environment, sleeping on the urban edge and raiding anthropogenic food sources on a daily basis. Human monitors, who herd baboons away from residential areas, are currently the preferred method of conflict mitigation. However, this method is costly and suffers from short-term interruptions, wherein the unexpected absence of monitors may lead to unprepared residents using lethal force to deter raiding baboons. Elsewhere in the chacma baboon distribution (in nonconflict areas), artificial food patches have been shown to alter troop movements drastically by eliciting consistent leadership behavior from alpha males. We investigated whether an artificial patch could be used to draw baboons away from the urban environment in the absence of monitors. First, we introduced an artificial food patch into natural land within a troop’s range and monitored movement and activity patterns. Although the troop utilized the patch, there was not a significant decline in use of the urban space as they continued to favor food in urban waste sites. Maintaining the patch, we then restricted access to these waste sites using wire-mesh fencing and observed a significant reduction in the time the troop spent within the urban space. In both experimental phases we observed consistent leadership, with dominant individuals arriving first at the patch and monopolizing food items thereon. Thus, we recommend the combined strategy of reducing raiding incentives in conjunction with provisioning as a short-term, cost-effective strategy to alter a baboon troop’s movement patterns and raiding frequency.
KeywordsBaboon Despotism Human–wildlife conflict Leadership Provisioning
We thank The Simon’s Town Civic Association, Peter de Villiers, Mrs. Dollery, and the South African Navy for their assistance and cooperation; Stuart and Judy Whittaker for their hospitality; Sabine Muëller for her assistance in the field; Tali Hoffman for assistance in spatial analyses; and 2 anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript. This work was supported by a South African National Research Foundation (NRF) grant awarded to M. J. O’Riain. A. J. King was supported by an AXA Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Fellowship (NE.H016600.2). The experiment was approved by the University of Cape Town’s ethics committee and adhered to the legal requirements of South Africa.
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