Gordon, who was rescued after being stoned at a squatter camp in South Africa, was recently released back into the wild. Jason, also known as “little peanut,” has recovered from a much needed arm amputation and Blue has found a father figure in Stephen.
Gordon, Jason, Blue and Stephen are just a few of the more than 500 baboons who have found a home at the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (CARE), South Africa’s only wildlife sanctuary dedicated to the care of Chacma baboons.
Lia Schwartz, a senior, spent her summer volunteering for CARE, which specializes in the rehabilitation and re-release of physically and psychologically abused or orphaned baboons. Schwartz, a biological anthropology major, used the money she received from the Cutlow Grant, an anthropology-related award from the University, to go to South Africa to work with the organization for one month.
Though CARE is not typically used as a research center, Schwartz said that Rita Miljo, a philanthropist who founded the organization in 1989, was more than happy to let her conduct research with the baboons.
“It’s amazing to apply what you learn from the primates to humans,” Schwartz said.
The center cares for baboons suffering from various degrees of abandonment or abuse. Their goal is not only to rehabilitate the baboons but to also educate the public on the lack of governmental policies in place in South Africa to protect them.
Molly Fenn, who is also a senior and biological anthropology major, spent nearly two months of her summer in 2006 working with CARE. She first heard about the organization when she was watching Animal Planet’s “Growing Up Baboon,” a show that profiled the organization and its efforts to aid the abused animals. Schwartz said she heard about CARE through Fenn.
While in South Africa, Fenn and Schwartz had the opportunity to work directly with the baboons taken in by the organization. When under early care, the baboons are entirely dependent on humans to act as their parents to care for them.
“They are so much like people and so affected by not having parents,” said Schwartz, who has always wanted to be a primatologist.
Through their months of working with CARE, both Fenn and Schwartz formed special bonds with their charges.
“The nature of baboons is the best experience,” Fenn said. “They are very much like little kids, and they’re skeptical. It takes the baboons a little while, but they learn to respect you and communicate with you.”
Following her experience working with CARE, Schwartz said, “I think it’s really impressive that CARE is not just setting up a zoo. They are doing rehabilitation, which is rare. They take really good care of the baboons.”
Despite the work of volunteers like Fenn and Schwartz, CARE needs as many volunteers as they can possibly get, particularly in the fall, winter and spring. This organization is run entirely through donations of time and money, recieving no governmental aid whatsoever.
“The only thing the South African government has done is restrict releases of the baboons, because they require a permit to do so,” Schwartz said.
To try to get the word out about their organization, CARE still utilizes its Animal Planet program. It has also been reaching out to countries outside of South Africa, such as the United States, that secure greater animal rights. Volunteers for the program come from all over the world, but Fenn said that getting help is still hard.
“I don’t think there’s a lot they can do,” Fenn said.
In an attempt to aid the program, Schwartz, who has been appointed one of two national fundraising chairpersons for CARE, has created a Web site, www.cafepress.com/africaphotos, for anyone interested in learning more about how to get involved.
Fenn said “I don’t think people realize how important the primates are. Biological anthropology relies on the study of primates. We need to protect them to keep that alive.”