Beast or Blessing by Jenni Trethowan
A Review by Geoff Dalglish -
Perhaps nowhere in South Africa is the escalating conflict between humans and wildlife more dramatic than on the Cape Peninsula where baboon casualties are sometimes reminiscent of a war zone. Each year baboons are shot, poisoned, mauled by dogs and mutilated or killed in road accidents as they go about their monkey business of foraging for food: often moving off the mountain or out of the forest into an extreme danger zone as they resort to the easier option of raiding homes and garbage bins.
And who can blame these survivors as human encroachment continues to shrink their natural environment, long since having cut off traditional migration routes for dispersing males. They’ve been around longer than humans but today there are just over 300 left on the Peninsula in a sea of humanity numbering many hundreds of thousands. So the conflict grows.
Human attitudes range from love to loathing for these our closest relatives in the local animal kingdom, but fortunately they have a number of committed human ambassadors, and none more passionate than Jenni Trethowan, co-founder of Baboon Matters.
Beast or Blessing is her story and also that of many Capetonians and visitors who’ve chosen to tell of their encounters, good and bad. The book is brutally fair, touching, informative and often funny, portraying our primate neighbours as the highly intelligent, individual and opportunistic creatures they are. Mostly the book is about the baboons themselves, told by many people from the baboon monitors who shadow them day in and day out, to conservationists and homeowners.
Jane Goodall recognises the important contribution made by Beast or Blessing, insisting that it “will go a long way to helping people understand the problems and help us to find solutions…
The book is an easy read and proceeds go to the Baboon Matters Trust, which is also supplemented by revenue from the programme of Baboon Walks offered to the public.
CONTACT the Trust if you would like to purchase a copy of Beast or Blessing