Elusive city baboon joins South Africa's menagerie of heroes

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The Independent Online

After the good-hearted gorilla, the paddling penguins and the loyal lions, South Africa is gripped by a race against time to capture a brilliant baboon which for weeks has been on the run in the badlands of Johannesburg.

After the good-hearted gorilla, the paddling penguins and the loyal lions, South Africa is gripped by a race against time to capture a brilliant baboon which for weeks has been on the run in the badlands of Johannesburg.

Spotted by several people sunning itself on city rooftops, the grey-haired monkey consistently vanishes at the slightest hint of a human overture. Now animal lovers using trap-door cages, fresh fruit and a telephone hotline are engaged in a race against time to capture the simian before Johannesburg's armed police get to it.

The baboon is only the latest in a long line of South African animal stars. Three years ago, Max the Gorilla became a hero at Johannesburg zoo when he cornered an armed robber. Last month, Peter the penguin and 30,000 other birds made headlines when they were saved from a Cape Town oil slick. Last year, a crime-free village near the Kruger Park began lobbying to keep a pride of lions whose presence was keeping away burglars.

Johannesburg's baboon is believed already to have cheated death once. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals believes it was due to be sacrificed at a traditional healers' market.

Harry Laing, the society's warden leading the hunt, said his mission was currently centred on the Selby area near the centre of the city: "It is crucial that members of the public do not chase away the baboon as it might move further into the centre of town."

Mr Laing is using fresh fruit and vegetables, placed near two cages whose doors will be released by the baboon's weight as soon as it goes inside.

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