Baboons are referred to as ‘Old-World’ monkeys. They are found widespread across sub-Saharan Africa.
Location: Safari Drive
Baboons are among the largest of all monkey species and we call them Old World monkeys as they are from Africa, the ‘Old World’. 'New World' monkeys are from South America, they're smaller and spend much more time in trees. This distinction goes back to a time in the earth’s history when the Americas, Europe, Asia & Africa separated into individual continents, with plants & animals diversifying and adapting to each continent’s climate and ecosystem.
In the wild, a baboon troop can number between 20 and over 100. Their ranges vary considerably depending on food availability and will often overlap with other troops, who usually try to avoid each other and any resulting conflict. They are highly organised and live in complex social groups, the core of which is made up of resident females who never leave the troop. Several adult males, adolescents and babies make up the rest of the group.
As in most social groups of animals, it is the males’ role to defend and protect the troop when danger threatens. Although there may be many adult males within the troop, they will all have an established pecking order amongst themselves, with the strongest and most vigorous male taking the role of leader. If a subordinate male shows any disrespect to his senior, minor quarrels may flare up and the leader is sometimes called upon to settle the issue.
Baboon Babies & Troop Life
Baboon babies are black when they are born and gradually turn brown by the time they are six months old. At first, the young baboon clings tightly to its mother’s breast and is fairly immobile, then after a few months, it will travel around on its mother’s back until becoming fully mobile at about one year old. Once young males leave their mother, they start at the bottom of the social hierachy, working their way up as they grow. On achieving adolescence, (four years), the young males will often move to other groups, sometimes even living between several troops throughout their life.
A very clear and strict hierarchy exists between all the adult females and their offspring. Each mother heads up her own kinship group, within which her own offspring are given a ranking of status, right down to the youngest at the bottom of the ladder.
What makes this degree of social hierarchy even more interesting is that, for example, all the offspring of a high-ranking female will all assume their mother’s high status, and will be shown respect from all other lower-ranking mothers. This deference to their superiors is enforced by the baby’s mother or brothers for the first two years.
Baboons and their bottoms
Pondering posteriors? Why do baboons not have fur on their bottoms? Baboons are a predominantly ground dwelling animal. They find a lot of their food on the ground such as fallen fruit, seeds and roots. Spending the majority of their time on their bottoms has meant they have evolved a posterior with no fur or nerve endings. This makes for a much comfier seat on the wet cold ground. You may notice that some of the bottoms look swollen. These are the females and the swelling is their way of communicating to the males that they are ready to mate.
Baboons are omnivorous (eat both plants and animals).
A male baboon has the same sized canine teeth as a lioness.
They are terrestrial, meaning they spend their time on the ground. However, they are also expert climbers, taking to the trees when danger is in the area or for eating fruits.
Baboons give birth after a gestation period of 6 months, they have a single baby
A female baboon’s swollen bottom is a sign that she is ready to mate
Baboons are opportunistic feeders and omnivorous in their choice of food. The main diet includes mostly vegetation, grasses, roots, nuts, seeds and fruit but they will always take the opportunity for meat. They will eat eggs, rodents and other small mammals, insects, birds, lizards and even young antelope if the chance presents itself.
Baboons are listed as least concern with an increasing population, but far from secure. Problem areas are those where baboons come into conflict with human communities. A troop of baboons living close to human towns and cities can lead to problems with raiding from houses, bins or even directly from people. Baboons are large, very strong and can be dangerous. With them being adaptable and confident, the result can give them a negative perception in the eyes of those that live near by.
Human populations are growing and spreading into more wild areas and the problems of conflict with animals like baboons or large predators are increasing. While their status is currently that of least concern, the future doesn’t look promising for baboons as they will be squeezed out of thier habitats and forced to share urban space.