Go ape about Chacma baboons

It’s sad when humans encroach on the habitat of wild animals and it’s not often that they can live side by side without conflict.  Here, on the outskirts of Windhoek, we live beneath a rocky hill that is the home to a troop of Chacma baboons.  At night they keep us awake with their very vocal fighting and courting and during the day they make their presence felt in the suburb by raiding dirt bins or entering houses looking for food.  We have to remind ourselves that they were here long before we were and we are in actual fact the intruders on their turf!  Hard to be fair-minded when there is litter strewn all over the ground though.

Very obviously a male!

Be that as it may, they are interesting animals to observe.  Chacma baboons move around in troops of fifty or more, lead by both an alpha male and female.  The large alpha male, weighing in at about 32 kgs, does most of the mating in the troop and his existence revolves around maintaining his dominance.  Fights break out when young males try to mate with females or usurp the alpha male’s position.  They have a strict behavioural and dominance code, even when it comes to troop movements.

Bobby the baboon

The lifespan of a baboon is between eighteen to thirty years.  They mate throughout the year and females give birth to a single offspring after a gestation period of six months.  Young babies cling to the underside of their mothers initially and as they grow older, they move onto her back where they are supported by her tail.

Mother carrying baby on her back

The weaning period is between six and eight months.  Although there is a very close bond between mother and baby, all babies are protected by the other females in the group.  Females have babies every two years.

Cute baby

Their diet consists of fruit, roots, bulbs, insects and sometimes very young buck.  They can be domesticated, (see our story on Bobby the baboon at Namibgrens, who thinks he is a goat), but it should be remembered that they are wild animals and can be extremely aggressive towards humans, especially if there is food around or mothers feel that their babies are threatened.

Bobby thinks he's a goat

In their troops they are very sociable and spend hours grooming and playing with each other.

Grooming time

The Latin name for the Chacma baboon is Papio cynocephalus ursinus.

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