BULAWAYO – Imagine you are a hospital patient undergoing a surgical procedure, and a baboon suddenly lands next to your bed.
Terrified at the thought? Well, consider patients and medical staff at Binga district hospital who daily have to fight off the primates which have caused untold damage.
Roofing sheets have been destroyed by baboon troops, and occasionally the animals misjudge their swings and land among patients.
Expecting mothers who cook their own meals recount how the baboons emerge from the nearby mountains and valleys as they prepare lunch and make a dash for their pots.
“Once they take the pots, they retreat to a safe distance or climb onto the roof before emptying contents and dumping the pot on the ground,” one woman is quoted as saying by The Sunday News.
Locals say the baboons are mainly be looking for food. They swing on gutters, vehicle mirrors, windscreens and like spending a lot of time on the rooftops.
“The result is that the asbestos and tiles on the roofing have caved in or been broken. The gutters have been yanked from the roof and walls. Sometimes they enter the rooms when patients are asleep,” a nurse said.
Binga District Residents Association chairman Elias Sibanda recalls an incident when hospital staff were sent scurrying for cover, abandoning a patient on whom a procedure was being performed.
“A baboon fell into a room where there was a surgical process underway. There was a damaged asbestos sheet on the roof above, and the baboon probably misjudged,” Sibanda told CITE.
“The expecting mothers are tormented daily by these baboons that come and steal their food. The women are now resorting to hiding food in blankets because baboons are taking everything. The expecting mothers’ waiting centre has been destroyed, the asbestos roofing sheets are all broken.”
Hospital authorities and the residents’ association have called on the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to intervene – but they have not done more than scare away the animals for a few hours, which quickly return.
ZimParks says there could be an issue with how the hospital disposes of food left-overs, which would have attracted the baboons in the first place.
Tinashe Farawo, the ZimParks spokesman, says the baboon menace is not unique to Binga but residents of Hwange, Kariba and Victoria Falls are also battling the animals daily.
“Our animals are overpopulated and they end up straying from protected areas into communities causing damage and loss to livelihoods,” Farawo said. “We have noticed that local authorities also have poor waste management systems which attract these primates.”
Binga Rural District Council chief executive officer Joshua Muzamba is resigned to having the problem for much longer.
“Binga is generally a wildlife area so there are bound to be human-animal conflicts here and there. However, efforts to educate people especially school children on what they should do when they come into contact with wildlife are also underway,” he said.
So far, the baboons have not caused any injuries or deaths – but locals wonder for how much longer.