June 2024

Nature's Comedians, the Baboons

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Nature's Comedians, the Baboons

On a morning game drive we spent over an hour watching a troop of baboons playing. Baboons are the most entertaining African animals to observe – so often their playful antics, expressive faces, and social interactions resemble our human behaviour!

Troops here typically number between 20 and 40 individuals, though larger aggregations of over 100 members are not uncommon. Troops consist of several kinship groups of adult females and their offspring, as well as a number of mature, sexually active males. There is a strict hierarchy among both the females and the males, with individual males generally having exclusive mating rights to certain kinship groups. Immature males are tolerated within the troops until they are about five years old.

Individual male baboons are formidable animals, armed with large canine teeth and fearing only lions and leopards. When two or more male baboons are together, even their predators usually give them a wide berth. This partial immunity from predators has allowed baboons to develop a terrestrial lifestyle, although constant vigilance is required to keep the young out of danger. Baboons frequently forage alongside antelope, as the acute hearing of these herbivores provides an early warning against predators. Like other primates, baboons are omnivores.