MY mom moved to the Bluff in her early teens, and lived in one of the first farm houses built on the Bluff.
Back then the vast majority of the Bluff area was still thick coastal forest.
She always told stories of how she and my uncle would enjoy exploring the forests, the old dumps and often walk to the harbour at all hours to go fishing. Back then the only perceived danger came for the surrounding wildlife. One of the things that creeped her out was the baboon spider, especially the ones that lived under their family home. My uncle would often go and play under the house, knowing my mom would not follow because of the big, hairy spiders.
Of course when I heard these stories in my early teens, I was soon under my gran’s house on a desperate spider hunt, however by this time they were already extinct. I have never seen a baboon Spider on the Bluff, but as a teenager I was able to see a few at Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve.
For various reasons I stopped visiting Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve for several years, but I started visiting regularly again about eight years ago when I got my first DSLR camera and could take photos of the little things I find. One of the species I have been trying to find are the baboon spiders I used to find as a child. My eight-year long search finally paid off earlier this month, as I found my first baboon spider – a beautiful adult male spider.
Baboon spiders are in the same family as tarantulas. The females can live for around 20 years, however the males only live for around three years. When first born, baboon spiders make burrows into the soil in which they live for the rest of their lives if undisturbed. However once the males reach sexual maturity, they leave the safety of their burrows and become wanderers in a constant search of females. This is when they sometimes wander into human homes, and are often killed out of fear.
Baboon spiders are becoming increasingly rare and some species are even becoming extinct before they are properly understood.
Threats to baboon spiders include habitat destruction (of various sorts), humans killing them out of fear and the pet trade. In some parts of the country, baboon spiders are a protected species and killing them is a criminal offence. It is also a criminal offence to remove baboon spiders from their natural environment and to keep them as pets.
While baboon spiders can deliver a painful bite, their venom is considered harmless to humans. So what should you do if you encounter one in your home? Spiders are pretty easy to relocate without harming you or the spider. Simply take an empty container which is larger than the spider’s leg span and place it over the spider. Once you have the spider trapped, slowly slide a piece of cardboard or similar under the container, and pick up the container while keeping the cardboard firmly in place. Take the spider outside and release it into the garden or nearest natural area. If this sounds too scary to do, do not kill it as baboon spiders are becoming extinct, and killing just one could be detrimental to their survival. Rather call someone to help relocate the spider safely.
The answer to our fears should never be eradication, but education. Make an effort to learn about snakes and spiders and remember that for the most part, what you see in movies is totally untrue and is in fact designed to provoke your fears. We have a whole world of knowledge at our fingertips since the advent of the smartphone, and yet for the most part people rather continue living in fear and ignorance.
For more information on baboon spiders and even to record your baboon spider sightings, search for the ‘Baboon Spider Atlas’.
If you would like to have your bugs, spiders or even snakes identified or relocated, Whatsapp Warren or call on 072-211-0353.
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