Maggie Sergio, former Director of Advocacy and Wildlife Solutions for WildCare in San Rafael, CA spent three years focused on solving human-wildlife conflicts, and educating the public about how to resolve those problems non-lethally and for the long term.
Before leaving on her fifth trip to South Africa earlier this year Maggie, a long time Nikela supporter, asked if she could be of help. As her travels took her really close to Karin’s primate center we invited her to pay Karin a visit and deliver a donation check. Maggie enthusiastically agreed.
Maggie’s experience as shared with me and her article in the Huffington Post:
“I am absolutely humbled by Karin,” were some of the first words out of Maggie’s mouth when we chatted on the phone.
Karin Saks, aka Baboon Woman, lives very simply amongst the primates in a rustic home that also serves as the primate center where injured and orphaned vervet monkeys and baboons are treated and nurtured. Her furry charges are baby primates whose parents have been killed by farmers whose properties often border on wildlife areas, or baboons and vervets who have themselves been purposefully injured.
After handing off the donation check from Nikela, Maggie quickly decided that she was not only going to spend a few hours with Karin and her primates, but several days volunteering. Needless to say, Maggie experienced the feedings, treatment and rehab techniques Karin uses to prepare her charges (those that can be) for re-entry in to the wilds (video).
Karin runs her center on her own much of the time, relying on the generosity of volunteers who come and spend a few days, weeks or months assisting her. For both Maggie and I this is most frustrating. Karin has this amazing knowledge and understanding of both the baboons and vervet monkeys and deserves the support so she can go out and educate the surrounding communities. She has so many ways to resolve the human-wildlife conflicts, but faces so little interest or desire to change from the local farmers.
Maggie, trained in human-wildlife conflicts in the USA tells her story:
“Gunfire! Past a farm on a dirt road about 300 yards from Karin’s home. We had ventured out for an early morning walk with her three dogs. The last thing I expected was to hear gunshots and to witness an assault on wildlife.”
“Immediately after the shots were fired, we heard hysterical screams and cries from the baboons and watched as several of them fled over the fence in terror. The only crime that these animals committed was foraging for food. The food source that attracted the baboons was made easily available to them by humans and placed out in the open. This farmer had planted a crop of tomatoes and avocados and took no measures to protect his crops from wildlife, despite the fact that his farm is surrounded by wilderness. Rather than investing in adequate fencing, this farmer, like most, deals with the problem by shooting the offending animals.”
“Animals are always in search of food, whether the source is natural or the result of human agriculture. Food sources for wildlife can be either livestock or crops. If food sources are left unprotected, conflicts will ensue. When animals opportunistically take advantage of the easy meals provided by agriculture, they are often shot, poisoned or snared in an attempt to control the damage. However, these methods are retaliatory and work only for the short term. As soon as an animal is removed from a territory, whether by death or relocation, a space is opened up for another animal to fill, as long as the original source or attraction is still readily available. If a mother is killed, orphan babies are left behind to starve or be preyed upon by other animals.”
“The common denominator of these wildlife conflicts globally is that humans are providing easy access to a food source when we don’t take adequate measures to protect our crops or livestock. What varies is the species of wildlife that is killed. In South Africa it is considered perfectly acceptable for a farmer to shoot baboons, vervet monkeys, jackal, and other species.”
“Because of her work caring for baboons, it is rumored that the local farmers “have meetings about Karin.” I couldn’t help but wonder if the gunshots fired that morning as we passed were meant to send a message or not. Regardless of the intent, Karin’s courage and commitment is unwavering as she works day to day caring for the orphans and victims of agriculture and human encroachment. She has just been notified that the 17 hectare property that she has been leasing for the last seven years is now up for sale. An international effort is now underway to assist”
Karin has been the champion for primates for more than two decades. She has been harassed, and persecuted for her vehement protection of wild vervet monkeys and baboons. Despite all the opposition, the struggle for funding and the lack of local support she never gives up. The primates of the Western Cape owe much to this plucky woman, and so do we.
Please consider helping us at Nikela support Karin’s work to save more Josephs.