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The City’s Environmental Management Department works tirelessly to ensure that our unique and valuable natural assets are protected and conserved in the wake of the wildfires around the city. Read more below:

The City of Cape Town’s Environmental Management Department is making every effort to ensure that our globally important fauna and flora is monitored and managed during and after fires. This includes ensuring the safety and well-being of our baboon troops.

Baboons
With the assistance of 63 rangers from service provider, Human Wildlife Solutions, the Department manages 11 baboon troops around the city. Three of the troops have home ranges in the vicinity of Ocean View, Glencairn and Simon’s Town, which were affected by fires on 11 January 2017.

During post-fire assessments, two juvenile baboons from the Da Gama Troop were spotted with burn wounds. Over the past few days, the City’s urban wildlife veterinarian, together with animal welfare professionals, continually monitored the injured baboons on a daily basis.

The City, on advice of our animal experts, took the decision to leave the juvenile baboon with a burnt hand with her mother in the hope that she would recover in her natural environment. The juvenile baboon was monitored and site inspections were conducted. Sadly, her condition took a turn for the worst over the weekend and she died last night, 21 January 2016.‘At the time we decided that the kindest action would be to leave the juvenile with her mother and not to traumatise her any further by separating her from the troop. It is sad and very unfortunate that she did not survive. We are monitoring the other juvenile baboon who is feeding well. The juvenile, with a limp, was seen climbing rocks and appears to be recovering. Animal welfare professionals will continue to monitor the injured baboon for as long as required,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member: Transport and Urban Development Authority, Councillor Brett Herron.

While 65% of the Da Gama Troop’s home range burnt, there is water on the mountain and a large stretch of unburnt vegetation south of the Kleinplaas Dam that lies within their home range. Currently, the Da Gama Troop is choosing to feed in the burnt zone, where they have found food such as insects, seeds and bulbs which have become exposed in the post-fire moonscape-like landscape.

‘Officials have assessed the situation and confirmed that there is sufficient food and water for all 11 baboon troops around the city. Residents are asked not to feed the baboons – this is prohibited by law. Feeding baboons will encourage them to raid homes and for this reason the current policy to keep our baboons wild and safe remains in place,’ said Councillor Herron.

‘Residents caught feeding baboons can receive fines, ranging from a minimum R2 500 spot fine for a first offence to a maximum of R40 000 or one year imprisonment (or both) for a second offence.

Other fauna and flora
City officials are working with welfare authorities to tend to animals injured during the fires. Regrettable deaths reported include a grysbok, as well as several snakes and tortoises.

Ecologists confirm that fire can be a positive occurrence. Fynbos requires fire to regenerate plants, underground storage organs, and seeds. Without fire, the vegetation becomes moribund, with some species becoming locally extinct. Many smaller insects and animals take cover from a fynbos fire by hiding in rocks or below ground and the eggs of tortoises are adapted to survive a fynbos fire.

For fynbos on the Cape Peninsula and adjacent mountain ranges, an average fire interval of 15 years is ideal, but 8 to 30 years is acceptable.

In Somerset West, the youngest vegetation was eight years old, having previously burnt in February 2009. On the Peninsula, the vegetation was 17 years old, having generated following the 2000 fires. Therefore, in all areas, good seed banks are in place for germination this winter and spectacular bulb displays may be anticipated in spring.

Invasive species
Invasive alien trees remain a fire risk in all areas. Stands of invasives (e.g. pines, gums, wattles and hakea) or felled slash provide unnaturally high fuel loads which are estimated to burn 10 times hotter than fynbos.

The excessive heat from fire in a stand of invasive trees incinerates seeds and bulbs. It also contributes to higher fauna deaths as animals and insects that normally hide do not survive.

‘We are only halfway through the fire season and for this reason I urge residents to remove all listed invasive alien vegetation from their properties and surroundings, as is required by law. Dry pine needles or leaves in gutters must also be removed as flying embers can ignite this material, resulting in the loss of a home.

‘We encourage residents to work with the City to safeguard their families and property during the current fire season,’ said Councillor Herron.

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