Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Baboons like sweet South African wine grapes

By Jessica Yadegaran
Thursday, April 15th, 2010 at 12:27 pm in Corkheads.

Absolutely had to share this article our wildlife writer Gary Bogue forwarded me. Turns out the wildfires that devastated parts of South Africa – the main foraging areas for the country’s wild baboons – earlier this year are causing hundreds of the primates to forage closer to the prized vineyards outside Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The electric fences that deter most vineyard pests, like squirrels and even deer, don’t seem to bother baboons.

As the story states, they prefer pricey pinot noir and chardonnay grapes for their perceived sweetness. They eat the most ripe and expensive ones and leave the others on the vines or ground. When they get tipsy, they find a shady area to sleep it off.

While it’s a cute story, in the Constantia wine growing region alone, baboon foraging has cost $34,800 in annual crops.

So what’s a vineyard manager to do? They’re hiring people to make noise and scare the baboons away – not a job I think I’d want. Also, the Baboon Research Unit at the local university is pioneering a high-tech collar that will be place around the neck of a baboon troop member. A sensor on it will become activated and send a text message to the winery when a baboon is approaching.

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