Baboons wipe out South African grape crops

Baboons wipe out South African grape crops

18 March 2010

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South Africa —  An army of marauding baboons has been terrorising wine growers in the Franschhoek Valley region of South Africa, raiding local farms and devouring grapes.

Devastating recent bushfires in the mountains surrounding the valley had driven the troop of over 50 baboons further into the wine region in search of new sources of food, according to local growers.

Mark Dendy-Young, manager of La Petite Ferme, told, ‘The baboons seem to know exactly when to eat these slowly ripening berries. A week before we are able to harvest they tuck in. They don’t seem to eat them green.

‘The problem has been worse this year as they eat two to three tonnes over a week, approximately 2000 bottles’, he said, adding that he had lost nearly 40% of his crop to the animals.

The baboons seem to have also developed a taste for other grape varieties, especially Pinot Noir.
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‘Pinot Noir vineyards situated on high slopes have particular problems. The situation is worse than people may think,’ Clayton Reabow, winemaker at Moreson Wines said.

One consolation for local growers is that such a low yields tend to produce a higher-quality crop.

‘What we harvest has to be of such great quality that it will mature in the best oak and command high prices,’ Dendy-Young said.

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