Understanding Baboons

This topic has very little to do with guitar making…….. We enjoy living near nature, sometimes near a forest, near mountains, near water. This adds to our quality of life. When we live in these privileged conditions we are also encroaching on the nature we want to be part of and we should be tolerant of all of that nature, even that part of nature that poses a bit of inconvenience. The nature was there first and we should respect all of it. One of the inconveniences we sometimes experience is Baboons and humans are extremely intolerant possibly because of our lack of understanding.

Understanding Baboons


Baboon troops vary in size from 12 to 150 individuals – sometimes splitting into sub-troops as they forage for food. They form an integral part of the ecology of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, foraging from the coastline to the tops of our highest mountain ranges, dispersing seeds and bulbs as they go. The core of the troop is made up of females: mothers along with their babies and juveniles, grandmothers and sisters.Baboon 2 Dominant females‘inherit’ their social status in the baboon hierarchy from their mothers. In natural conditions, there is one adult male to every three or four adult females in the wild – males move between troops and suffer higher mortality from predators when on their own, or from injuries sustained from males when attempting to join a new troop.

The Urban Baboon

Humans have encroached on natural areas as towns expand. With urban sprawl comes animal conflict as the latter are displaced and make for uneasy neighbours. Baboon troops that live close to urban areas have fewer adult males than undisturbed troops. The lack of natural predators suggests that the males are being killed as a result of direct conflict with humans. Lone dispersing males are often seen as ‘rogues’ and are treated as a threat to humans. It is important to realise that lone males reflect the natural movement of the males between troops which is nature’s way of preventing inbreeding, as males do not mate with their mothers, sisters or aunts. Killing males within troops has much wider implications, for it opens the door for new males to immigrate into the troop. When this happens the new male typically kills the previous males’ offspring. One study of an urban troop reported that 53% of all infants born, died within their first year. It was suspected that most of these deaths were due to infanticide. The males engage in this shocking behaviour because without the cost of nursing an infant, females quickly come into oestrus and he is thus able to mate with her sooner than had she raised her infant.

The Alpha Male

The troop is lead by the most dominant adult male- known as the alpha male. A mature male baboon weighs up to 40 kg. He is extremely protective over the females and infants within the troop and jealously guards his right to mate with receptive females when they are at the height of their oestrus cycle. He can be a very tender father to his offspring and a formidable fighter against other males hoping to take over his position in the troop. Baboon 1The males ‘yawn’ to show off their canine teeth to other males and their loud ‘wahoo’ bark is also
a form of communicating their strength and social position to others.
Injury and Death of baboons
Baboon numbers in certain troops are declining at an alarming rate.
They suffer many injuries and deaths – if the death rate continues at the present pace, the viability of the population will be threatened.
• Hurting the animals solves nothing.
• Pain deterrents are ineffective if animals can still secure the rich rewards of easy food.

Only correct management and strict control will eventually pay off. Baboons have to learn – after many, many years of raiding – that humans no longer offer easy food. This vital change is only possible
if every human plays a part in the management process. Hopefully a peaceful legacy will be passed on to future generations of humans and baboons.

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