I spent January of 2008 studying the Cape Peninsula baboons as part of a spatial ecology project headed by Tali Hoffman of the Baboon Research Unit of the University of Cape Town. You can see my post about that experience here. Recently, BRU has been met with complaints regarding their use of radio-tracking collars. I would like to weight in on this discussion with my personal observations.
While I was in the Cape Peninsula I spent many hours with the Cape Point group, which includes Winnie, a female with one of the radio-collars in question. Upon seeing her for the first time I, of course, questioned whether the collar had any impact on her day-to-day life. After spending a month around Winnie, I saw no evidence that collar had any impact on her. I saw her engaging in all the typical baboon behaviors, including grooming and foraging. Interestingly, I never saw her touch or express any interest in or discomfort with the collar.
During my time in the Cape, I came to have a profound respect for the research that BRU is conducting and how that research helps the South African National Parks Service manage their natural resources, including these baboons. Radio-tracking collars help researchers understand more about the needs of these intriguing animals, which in turn enables the Park Service to better manage them. BRU and the Parks Service should be applauded for their work with the Cape baboons.