In the order of primates, Baboons are medium built. The adult male can weigh up to 36Kg and is more or less twice the size of the female. The female weighs 15 Kg up to 18Kg. The canines of the male are also much longer than the female. Their life span is about 18 years, but there are cases recorded of up to 40 years of age. Their fur is a grey color. Their tails are quite long and are used for balance. Like humans they have binocular vision, they see very well, their hearing is acute and their smell relatively good.
They prefer Savannah woodland and mountains. They sleep in huge trees, caves, and cliffs. Places which are normally very difficult for predators to reach them.But they normally have more than one of these sleeping-sites, within their territory, that they use on a rotation basis as to prevent a certain pattern to form, as to foil predators. They never travel too far from their sleeping spots, not more than 1 or 2 kilometres. They spend most of the daylight hours on the ground, and are seldom seen after dusk.
Baboons live in troops of up to 30 or 40 individuals.Baboons are very exposed to predators, Leopard in particular. Baboons are always on the alert, very often associating with other animals, like Impala. If a predator approaches, the males give the alarm bark, and the troop will go up the trees or; if no trees available, the vulnerable members of the troop will congregate in the centre of the group, with the males on the outside.
Like all primates they have a very complicated social hierarchy. In one troop you will find more than one dominant male but there is always just one dominant leader.
The dominant male makes use of intimidation. He will climb on a high ant hill and stage mock attacks on younger inexperienced males. He normally gets away with this fine tuned bluffing act. To scale down such bravado, from a dominant male, the younger male will turn around and show its back side, to show submissiveness.
In order to protect their species, killings hardly take place, but there are cases where a fight got out of hand and killings have been observed. Baboons are very territorial and neighbouring troops know to stay clear.
With females there are a very strict hierarchy, a female that is in heat get’s preference amongst her peers. Dominance plays a very important role, if a female is dominant the chances are high that she will mate with a dominant male, hence forth, the baby will have a head start, in the hierarchy.
Baboons are omnivorous, feeding on fruit, roots, leaves, grass, flowers, insects, lizards, birds and their eggs. They might even kill the new born of some antelope and even Leopard cubs. This behaviour has led scientists to believe that they lack protein, because antelope have not yet developed a natural fear for baboons. They don’t emigrate on a seasonal basis but they will if food and water is scares.
They don’t have a mating season, as per say, but a peek in summer is normal. Females in heat show a very swollen vulva and red backside. But after ovulation it subsides. When she is in her ovulation period she will only allow a dominant male to mate with her, but afterwards she will still allow other males to mate with her. This process is very important genetically. Females give birth to a single young after a gestation period of about 6 months, twins are very rare. They will not mate again for the following 18 months. Female baboons are excellent mothers, for the first 2 weeks or so, she will not let any of the troop members touch her young, later on she will allow a selective few to touch and play with the baby.The male contributes to the safety of the young and will fiercely protect them.The bond between mother and baby is so strong, that in the case of an infant dying she will carry it for days, even if decomposing has set in.
Leopards are their main predators, it is well known that snakes are their second predator, and they are very weary of them, but the young can fall prey to predatory birds. It is known that they can fall prey to crocodiles.
Bilharzia is a blood related parasite that often kills them. Pleuritis is a lung disease, which a certain parasite causes, through breathing it into the lungs.Arteriosclerosis of the aorta and coroner veins, is also documented, but seldom occurs in the young and mainly manifest in adults. Many of their diseases and ailments can spread to humans; it is therefore advised to let them roam freely in their own environment.
MYTHS AND BELIEVES:
Baboons are very intelligent animals and therefore very interesting to watch and study. Their arrogant posture is very impressive and at times very comical. There is a common believe that there are certain members of the troops that act as a guard, but they are naturally very curious and will sound an alarm to warn the others of any suspsious sighting. Their communication skills are phenomenon.
Like any wild animal, their behaviour is unexpected and unpredictable. If they are trapped they will fight to the end, normally the male will be the one with the most aggression. And humans are no exception, especially if their young are in danger.
The Darwin Project: A project affiliated to W.A.G(WILDLIFE ACTION GROUP)
The Harnas Wildlife Fondation: http://www.harnas.org/en/