Tag Archives: Bobby the baboon

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.

On the edge of the Namib

We arrived at our campsite in the late afternoon, with the January sun still high in the sky and settled down with a cup of coffee before setting up camp. We were drinking in the view when a slight movement on the rocky backrest of the seats in the braai area caught Jane’s attention – a metre long spotted bush snake! In the way of most snakes, it disappeared from view almost as quickly as we could grab our cameras, but Jane spotted it again half an hour later; in the tree overlooking the braai area this time, and we were able to watch it slithering through the branches of the tree for a good fifteen minutes before it made its final exit for the weekend. Perhaps not the best of welcomes as the shade below this tree was an ideal spot for our friends Des and Jo to position their tent!
Namibgrens is a wonderful campsite, just 165 km from Windhoek on the D1275 road, and is located just a couple of km from the top of Spreetshoogte Pass, the steepest pass in Namibia. The mountain campsites are located amongst the granite hills and are better equipped than the average campsite in Namibia. Each campsite has its own toilet, shower, braai area, washing up facilities and large canvas-walled shelter that provides a cool respite from the scorching summer sun. There are also two swimming pools in the campsite. Veritable luxury as camping goes!
The spacious campsite number 1 has wonderful views and is probably the choicest of the campsites, and here we were visited by constant parade of Mountain wheatears, Cape buntings, Great sparrows, Black-throated canaries and African red-eyed bulbuls. A female Great sparrow took a liking to her reflection in a shiny kettle, and she spent several minutes walking around the kettle, preening herself like a prima donna and pecking at her reflection.
There are wonderful walks at Namibgrens, and it is possible to walk for many hours through the spectacular scenery in the comparative isolation that is so refreshing for the soul. When following the Dassie Trail it is possible to take a side path that leads up a fairly steep climb to Eagle’s Rest, from which there are 360-degree views over the deserted hills and valleys.
Standing at the top of this hill and rotating slowly it is possible to take in the plains spread out below Spreetshoogte Pass; the flat-topped Gamsberg, the Namibgrens campsite and farmhouse; several dams and a seemingly limitless series of rocky hills.
It is also worth taking a walk to the larger of the dams on the farm, a walk that will take you past the goat pens, where you may see Bobby, the baboon who lives with the goats and has become something of a tourist attraction on the farm. The dam is populated with quite an assortment of waterbirds, including, on occasion. Great white pelicans.
We were returning to Windhoek when we left Namibgrens, and took a wonderful drive down Spreetshoogte Pass to Solitaire. After coffee and a generous slice of the famous Solitaire apple-pie at the bakery, we followed the route over the Remhoogte Pass and so back to Windhoek.