safariLIVE’s camp is under siege.

Who has breached its gates and is terrorizing the populace inside? Is it a group of marauding hyenas? A colossal force of siafu ants? An enraged elephant, finally sick of these annoying humans who bumble about its kingdom? All valid guesses but the intruders who cause no end of headaches for the safariLIVE crew are actually much smaller in scope: monkeys and baboons.

safariLIVE shares the park with many animals, but few go out of their way to invade our living space, most wanting nothing to do with us. The vervet monkeys and chacma baboons however, often invade the homes of locals, tourists, and rangers alike. safariLIVE’s camp has not been spared from their watchful eyes and thieving hands, we have thus become host to almost daily invasions from these primates, especially in the drier months.

Of the pair, the baboons cause the most trouble. A number of marula trees grow within the camp’s borders and the baboons come to feed on the fruit. Unfortunately, they appear not to be satisfied with just fruits and have noticed the humans of the camp have food too. So they’ve taken upon themselves to try and steal our meals, often by force.

Baboons thus come in during the early mornings, running across the tops of the houses we live in, their stampeding often waking up guides and other staff. They mount invasions against the kitchen, where they know the food is kept. The kitchen is locked but that doesn’t deter the baboons and they will seize any opportunity they can to get inside. If a window is left open, they’ll slip inside and wreck everything in sight searching for food, smashing plates, tossing silverware, and overturning shelves. If the door is left unlocked, the baboons will open it up and have themselves a ball.

Not even failing to get into the kitchen deters them. During our morning meetings, food used to be set out ahead of time. Noticing the humans did not immediately go for the meal, the baboons snuck down from the trees or roofs and snatched up whatever they could before fleeing. This has changed, for now, but still, the baboons prowl the roofs of the camp, waiting for any opportunity to pilfer our breakfasts.

Vervet monkeys, in contrast, are more subtle and can be easily unnoticed. They are like ninjas, making no noise as they creep into camp, carefully climbing across the roofs and watching for an opportunity. This subtly often serves them well as just the other day, a quiet monkey snuck in, grabbed a piece of food that had been left out while the staff was talking, and made off with it. They will slip in and exploit in and exploit any gaps in our defenses.

These thieving primates have become widely thought of as pests and annoyances. But they’re not evil nor trying to be grating. They’re simply taking advantage of their environment, using their natural intelligent to find ways to do so, even if those exploits are destructive or annoying for us. It goes to show how little nature cares for human spaces and it will invade at any opportunity. Of course, acknowledging that doesn’t make it any easier to tolerate being woken at five o’clock in the morning by a cascade of baboon screams, but it is something to always keep in mind, lest one lose perspective of the natural world.

Written by: Jake McDaniel