South Africa Euthanizes Country’s Most Popular Baboon

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fred the baboon

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South African officials said Friday that they had euthanized the country’s most famous baboon, known as Fred, who was well-known for raiding cars and frightening tourists along Cape Town’s scenic route.

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Fred was the ringleader of a group of baboons infamous breaking into cars to chow down on sandwiches and snacks. Cape Town’s baboon management group said he was euthanized Friday because he was becoming increasingly aggressive.

The group said Fred attacked and injured three people in 2010.

“The decision to have him euthanized was not taken lightly and not without extensive discussions between all role players involved,” the group said in a statement. “This baboon’s aggression levels had recently escalated to the point where the safety of tourists, motorists and other travellers along the road past Smitswinkel Bay was being threatened.”

In 2009, Fred led a group of 29 baboons in a four-car raid outside Simon’s Town, a small coastal neighbourhood. The baboon chief used his signature tactic of opening unlocked doors and jumping through windows to search for food, while the rest looked for access inside from car roofs and hoods.

There are more than 400 baboons roaming Cape Town’s outskirts, particularly the popular scenic route to the Cape of Good Hope.

Baboons are a protected species under South African legislation but their aggressive pursuits of food have led to conflicts with residents. Cape Town’s baboon management group said that as baboons are exposed to human food, rich in carbohydrates, they are becoming increasingly intent on getting more of it — and increasingly dangerous. People caught feeding baboons are liable for a fine of 1500 rand ($219).

“Unfortunately, this baboon’s demise can be contributed mainly to the continuous misguided efforts by humans to befriend and feed baboons,” the group’s statement said. “Because people want to love, laugh at and be entertained by baboons, they start a cycle of events that can lead to tragedy, as in the case of this baboon.”

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