SPCA – Friend or foe?

Community outraged by decision to shoot baboon

The Bulletin Newspaper
Jenneth Geel, Senior Inspector of the Highveld Ridge SPCA.

“The National Council of SPCA is the largest animal welfare organisation in South Africa. It prevents cruelty, promotes kindness and alleviates the suffering of animals. Our objective is to serve and protect all animals, to uplift their welfare and to ensure that the protection they have under South African law is upheld and protected.”
In a bizarre twist of events, the protector of animal rights, turned into the hunter when Jenneth Geel, Senior Inspector of the Highveld Ridge SPCA gave the order to shoot an escaped baboon.
In January the Bulletin reported the following: “A Brahman Bullock calf was shot in eMbahlenhle after causing havoc and attacking several people. It all started when the bullock somehow found his way into the eMba Sasol club on the morning of 15 January.”
As well as “We decided to rather put it down before it caused more damage”
A baboon was sighted on the 4th of April in the Tugela street area as it vaulted a wall. First reactions of everybody was that it was a very good April fool’s joke. Social media then came alive with reports of baboon sightings as well as offers to help capture the baboon.
At the time of writing this article, 117 598 thousand people saw this post on the Bulletin’s Facebook page alone (post reaches), it was shared 656 times and had received 863 comments. These figures do not include shares, reaches and comments on other pages. The shares even reached animal rights groups countrywide. Groups such as Baboon matters and Prime crew.
A number of people have offered assistance to capture the animal or even dart the animal. Jenneth told the Bulletin not to interfere and to leave the issue with them that actually know more about these animals than the Bulletin. “This animal is stressed out and needs to be shot,” said Jenneth, “someone might be injured”
The Editor of the Bulletin himself offered his help in shooting the animal to GMM’s Fire department if the animal posed any risk to the public. After sighting the animal, it became clear that this animal was not stressed as said by inspector Geel. Therefore, no need to put it down.
The Bulletin has actually been in contact with several people to help capture the animal. We have contacted a group of people called “Saving the Survivors” from Pretoria that immediately arranged for a baboon trap as well as a darting team. The cage was immediately made available and could have arrived in GMM within two hours.
The pleas fell on deaf ears as the order came from the SPCA to shoot the animal. Pressure from the public also did not deter Inspector Geel from giving the order. It was witnessed that Inspector Geel was listening to the conversations on the Zello channels on more than one occasion. The conversation was played to her by another reporter.
Arguments were made that this animal is stressed and threatened people. When speaking to those that were involved in tracking down the animal it became clear that this was a captured animal that came loose. Members of Stratconrisk were able to approach the animal and get as close as 5 meters from him before he bared his teeth. This cancels the argument that he was unapproachable and that no one could get close enough to dart him.
Animals that are cornered will warn people when they are getting too close. This is exactly what happened with the baboon.
Witnesses also spoke to the Bulletin and said that the baboon has his regular sleeping spot, just as baboons would do. The baboon has been observed in the trees for a while according to the same witnesses. If there was a pattern it could easily have been captured.
One of the people tracking the baboon even called him by name and knew who the owner was, stating that the baboon lived in the trees behind the fire station. It could not be determined if this baboon was the same baboon.
Observations made by the Bulletin was not of a frightened, angry and aggressive animal but more of an escaped pet. At no time was anyone threatened nor did it show any aggressiveness towards people or animals. At one stage it jumped down from a tree and casually ran between barking dogs to the next yard. It is not how a frightened, cornered animal would behave.
The order to shoot could have waited until all options have been exhausted. This was surely not the case!
Once the animal was shot, Inspector Geel tried to prevent the Bulletin from taking photos. She also tried to chase the Bulletin of the property. When told that it is not her property she tried to get the owners to instruct the Bulletin to leave the premises. Again this was refused.
The worms are slowly coming out of the woodwork regarding the Highveld Ridge SPCA and their treatment of animals in the region. The Bulletin was inundated with reports of animals being put down without exploring any other action first. Most people do not want to be mentioned as they fear intimidation. Some have even quoted accounts of intimidation.
“I will make sure that you get a criminal record” Inspector Geel was quoted as saying.
Earlier the same day the SPCA posted on their Facebook page ”Baboons are Free Roaming wildlife. They are therefore protected by the Nature Conservation laws” as well as “If we do not chase it out of town it will be shot, do we really want another wild animal’s death on our conscious”
The story that the SPCA told everybody kept changing to the point that nobody knows what the SPCA is using to base their decision on.
The SPCA released a press statement on Monday 9 April regarding the incident. The statement states that Inspector Geel is to be contacted for more information. Inspector Geel refused to speak to the Bulletin stating “I’m not speaking to The Bulletin as you are always lying”. The Bulletin then enquired about the chairperson of the Highveld Ridge SPCA Management Committee as we would like to enquire about the press statement and who wrote it. Inspector Geel replied “It doesn’t matter as she is in Germany anyway”
Inspector Geel was also offered an opportunity to apologise to the public. She declined to do this as well.
The National Council of SPCAs have on their page a very thoughtful introductory video explaining the aims of the NSPCA.
“The lives of tens of thousands of animals are improved because of our passion, our intervention and our commitment to bring about change.” These are the words of Marcelle Meredith, Executive Director- National Council of SPCAs.” The NSPCA plays a vital role in bringing extraordinary support to these people and their animals (when speaking about people and their animals countrywide).”
This introductory video goes on to ask for support for the NSPCA.
The Bulletin referred to Inspector Geel as an inspector from the NSPCA. The Bulletin received an email from Meg Wilson (Public Relations NSPCA) informing us that she is not an NSPCA inspector but rather an SPCA inspector and that they (SPCA) operate autonomously from the NSPCA. This is strange because all references to their (SPCA) website is to NSPCA.co.za.
Please visit this website to see what should happen when dealing with animals, wild and domestic.
Shooting them is not mentioned!
In response to enquiries from the Bulletin to their involvement in this matter, the Mpumalanga tourism and parks agency replied, “Our officials from MTPA received a call from the community on this matter. Due to non-availability of the team to go to Secunda at that particular moment, SPCA was requested to attend to the matter. Our officials gave SPCA permission to eliminate the baboon if it posed any risk to the community at that particular moment. According to our team, SPCA inspectors went to the scene and assessed the situation and made a call on a way forward.”
People, in droves, have all voiced their disappointment with the handling of the incident. As well as withdrawing their support to the SPCA.
Animals will be the only loser in this cacophony of bad decisions.

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