Baboons are among the largest of all monkey species and we call them Old World monkeys as they are from Africa, the ‘Old World’. There are smaller monkeys that spend more time in trees which are from South America, the ‘New World’. This distinction refers to a time in the earth’s history when the Americas, Europe, Asia & Africa were joined, before the tectonic plates on which the continents sit then separated, 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 referred to as ‘Old-World’ monkeys. They are found widespread across sub-Saharan Africa.
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.
Worried about risking your car?…Not any more!
We have had baboons as part of the safari drive since opening in 1971. The baboons have become infamous for damaging cars, even making it into several TV programmes and comedians stand up routines.
Baboons are strong and added with their inquisitive nature, it can mean they may cause damage to cars, but there are several options which mean your car is left untouched by monkeys and you can still enjoy the safari drive.
1. Car Friendly Baboon Viewing Route
This option is part of the safari drive. As you journey through the reserves in your own car you will come to a point that gives two choices. Enter the monkey jungle, or you can view the baboons from behind the safety of a barrier, so you can watch the goings on with your car safe from monkey mischief.
2. Baboon Bus
The baboon bus is a great way for you and your family to enjoy the safari drive. The bus takes your family around the whole safari drive, including through the lions & baboons. This is ideal for those that have soft-top cars or don’t want to take their car through the monkey jungle. To book your seat on the baboon bus call and purchase your tickets on the morning of your visit by calling 0151 430 9009, lines open at 8:30am.
Top tips for those entering the baboon jungle
There is a strict NO FEEDING policy across the park and anyone found doing so will be asked to leave. The baboons will be attracted to your car if you have food on display, so tip number one is to hide any food inside the car. If they can see food through the windows, they will be more likely to damage the car trying to find ways of getting at it.
Drive carefully, stay slow and keep moving, avoid stopping behind the car in front. The baboons are wandering everywhere inside the monkey jungle, so if you are entering, it is vital you pay attention to the road. The maximum speed limit on the whole safari drive is 15mph. If you drive at this speed or less you are going to be able to take in more of the safari drive and spot things you may not otherwise. Try to stay in a free moving lane, avoid stopping behind a car as this allows baboons to settle in front of your car. If you feel you would like to see more of the baboons then there is an opportunity for you to loop back around and do a second, or third drive of the monkey jungle.
Keep all the windows closed and doors locked. This may sound obvious but even the slightest gap in the window will significantly weaken it and with some baboons weighing 40kg it is important to keep them fully closed.
Don’t try to prepare your car with tape, string or any other kind of fixing. This will only encourage the baboons and the plastic tape or string then litters the park.
For those with pickup trucks, check the back of your vehicle – if there is anything in the back then your vehicle is not permitted on the safari drive.
Finally, read all the terms and conditions before entering the safari drive. The full details are listed on this and it is vital that you have read this before entering.