Picky baboons develop a taste for pinot noir (but merlot just won't do)

Baboons, it seems, prefer pinot noir. They also like a nice chardonnay. Largely undeterred by electric fences, hundreds of wild baboons in South Africa's prized winelands are feasting on ripe, succulent grapes, forcing winemakers to use noisemakers and rubber snakes to try to drive them off during this harvest season.

"The poor baboons are driven to distraction," said Justin O'Riain, who works in the Baboon Research Unit of the University of Cape Town. "As far as baboons are concerned, the combination of starch and sugar is very attractive – and that's your basic grape."

Growers say the picky primates are partial to sweet pinot noir grapes, adding to the winemakers' woe, for pinot noir sells for more than the average merlot or cabernet sauvignon.

"They choose the nicest bunches, and you will see the ones they leave on the ground. If you taste them, they are sour," said Francois van Vuuren, farm manager at La Terra de Luc vineyards, 50 miles east of Cape Town. "They eat the sweetest ones and leave the rest."

Baboons have raided South Africa's vineyards in the past, but farmers say this year is worse than previous ones because the primates have lost their usual foraging areas due to wildfires and ongoing expansion of grape-growing areas. Out of a 12-tonne harvest, about 5 per cent goes to waste at La Terra de Luc because of the baboons. And in the Constantia wine-producing area alone, up to £23,000 worth of the crop has been lost annually in previous years, according to the Baboon Research Unit.

Sometimes the baboons get an alcohol kick – by feasting on discarded grape skins that have fermented in the sun. After gobbling up the skins, the animals stumble around before sleeping it off in a shady spot.

During harvest season from January to March, winemakers put up serious frontline defences. Some try to scare off the baboons by blowing into vuvuzelas , horns that are often used by South Africa's football fans.

Electric fencing often doesn't work because baboons can dig underneath it or swing above it from trees to get to the vineyards. They also test the fence for weak spots. If they're shocked, they'll scream, but they'll probably return the next day, says Mr O'Riain.

Sakkie Lourens, manager of Cabrière farm, has found one ruse that seems to work – rubber snakes. "I put them all over where the vines are, and since then, I haven't seen a single baboon," he said.

The Baboon Research Unit is pioneering a hi-tech approach in which a collar with a sensor is placed on a member of a baboon troop. When the collar passes a particular point, an "incoming baboon" text message is sent to a mobile phone, prompting someone to race to the fence and defend the vineyard.

Mr O'Riain doesn't think the problem will go away because vineyards are expanding into the lower slopes of the mountains, the baboons' traditional foraging grounds. "Where there's a mountain, there's a baboon," he said. "As we take up more and more of their land, the conflict increases."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: BDD - Digital Banking Technology / CEM - £150k ote

£75000 - £100000 per annum + £150k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: There are many compani...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Graduate Consultant - Sales Recruitment - £35k ote

£18000 - £25000 per annum + £35k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for your first s...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Media Sales - Print, Online & Mobile

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing house has been ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HRO - £70k+ ote

£35000 - £450000 per annum + £3k car, £70k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Do you want to...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital