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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Police shoot cake-loving baboon
By Richard Hamilton
BBC, Cape Town

A baboon that stole a piece of chocolate cake from a house in South Africa's Western Cape province has been shot dead by a policeman from the serious violent crimes unit.

Baboons have a reputation as small-time thieves
The police officer was reported to have said that if he had wanted to see wildlife he "would have gone to the Kruger National Park".

People living in the province have come to regard the baboons as pests that can steal food from their homes, but the incident has angered conservationists.

Craig Spencer from the Overstrand nature conservation department said the baboon, a lactating female, still had the piece of cake in her hand, when he arrived at the house in Rooi Els to investigate.

Mr Spencer said the policeman could be charged with hunting without a permit.

"We're trying to educate people that you can't just go around shooting baboons because they steal food," he said.

You need a permit to kill a baboon in South Africa and they are a protected species in the Cape Peninsula.

The police are refusing to comment on the incident.


Three weeks ago 15 baboons were found dead in a reservoir in the same region.

The cause of death their death is still unknown although conservation officers said they could have been poisoned.

Both incidents highlight a conflict between man and ape.

"The baboons are here to stay. They are as much part of the environment as rough seas and high winds," Mr Spencer said.

"People modify their lifestyles to live with the elements and must do the same to live with baboons," he said.

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