A gooey, cotton-candy visit to the local zoo or circus is the closest some people ever get to the ever-diminishing wild, which in turn dulls their wild sensibilities. There is the classic story of a Japanese tourist who visited a lion park in South Africa, pulled over with a tripod-mounted video camera, and walked over to cuddle one especially handsome maned-male. He never made it home.
Darwin award candidate treated a wild predator like a squishy Labrador puppy and paid the ultimate price. Unfortunately, such ignorance frequently results in extreme disposal measures for the animals that are then considered a nuisance.
In Saudi Arabia, tourists who feed baboons (to satisfy their own fits and giggles) have turned them into rogue raiders against which the local community is now rallying.
Arab News reports that in Al-Hada, baboons have been raiding crops and farms, understandably raising the ire of local farmers. Complaints have been submitted to Taif Governor Fahd bin Muammar, who in turn referred them to the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development.
“Khaled Al-Namri, a farm owner in Al-Hada, is especially concerned.
“They attack neighborhoods and feed from trash containers. I am afraid that their rising number will spread disease in the area. They attack people and destroy crops in search of food. Something needs to be done about this because this is our livelihood,” he told the paper.
There have been numerous reports that the baboons also kidnap puppies and possibly keep them as pets.
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Like bears in North America that are world class dumpster divers in areas populated by tourists (and their food) the baboons have not restricted their activity to farms. Khaled Al-Qurashi, a nurse, claimed the baboons are “spoiling the scenery” and endangering residents.
“The problem is that visitors to Taif are attracted to them. They see them as a tourist attraction and buy food for them. The baboons become dependent on humans for food and that persuades them to live close to the villages and cities. Baboons could spread disease among humans, although there is no record of that so far,” he explained.
Although they have a hysterical ring to them, these outcries may not be completely baseless.
Resident Sultan Al-Sufyani told Arab News how earlier this year, eyewitnesses reported that baboons threw rocks at a man who was driving near Al-Karr Mountain. He was subsequently killed, and his passenger was injured. Another man said that baboons tried to drag away his four year old son.
Taif municipality’s official spokesman, Ismaeel Ibrahim said that 47 baboon attacks had been reported, 18 of which had occurred on farming property.
“There are at least 2,000 baboons living in and around the city, feeding from garbage,” Ahmad Al-Booq, who is head of the National Wildlife Research Center told the paper, adding that “the problem would be resolved soon.”