This story was originally reported by PRI's "Here and Now." For more, listen to the audio above.
Baboons have a bad reputation in South Africa. They've been known to get aggressive, and sometimes dangerous, when stealing food from people's plates, hands and pockets. Henry Winter, a sport correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, experienced that first hand, when he reported on his Twitter feed:
Baboons everywhere, grabbing bread off table. Kitchen cats hissing at them & staff seeing them off with pebbles & paint-ball gun. Score-draw
He followed up with:
Baboons on roof now just out of range of gun-man firing small marbles. "I aim for the arse" says Mr Primate Control. Accurate up to 50 yards
Update on baboon bunfight gunfight at Sun City. "I don't shoot the small ones," says Primate Control. "I just wave the gun to scare 'em off"
Not everyone, though, sees the baboons as thieving nuisances. Jenny Trethowan, who heads up the organization Baboon Matters, leads nature walks that let people get to know a different side of these primates. According to the organization's website, the walks are "a lifetime opportunity to watch these fascinating animals as they eat, play and socialize around you."
Baboon Matters is pushing for stricter laws in South Africa to prevent against animal cruelty and hunting baboons. There are laws against the animals now, but Trethowan says that the laws aren't effective enough. Trethowan says she first got involved when a troupe of baboons was killed after too many encounters with suburbanites.
Trethowan sees the walks as a chance to show people a kinder and gentler side of the baboons up close. And maybe, with a little more attention coming from the world cup, Trethowan and her organization can help the creatures even the score.
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