The baboons we come across at Tanda Tula, and essentially the Greater Kruger region, are known as Chacma baboons, a name derived from the Khoikhoi word for baboon, ‘chao kamma’.
These incredible mammals are always such fun to spend extended periods of time with on safari. Not only is their behavior hilarious but watching their complex family dynamics often leave spectators wondering just how far us humans have really evolved?!
Here are a few fun facts you may not have known about the infamous Chacma baboon:
How they exist:
- They can live in family groups from 15 to 200 individuals and are extremely sociable animals.
- Male baboons tend to leave the troop when they reach adulthood so they can challenge other males from different troops for a more powerful position within a troop. Males can move between many troops in their lifetime.
- The dominant hierarchy amongst the males is determined through aggression and fighting. The most dominant male will usually only stay in this role for a year or less. Younger males, most often from another troop, will then come in and challenge the dominant male for the top position.
- Females’ behavior is the exact opposite; they remain in their biological groups with a strong hierarchical status which is passed down through generations.
What they feast on
- Chacma baboons are omnivores and have a large and varied diet which they will adapt to according to availability. They are extremely picky when selecting food and will always favour food with high nutrient density. There are even reports that claim they will choose foods that are high in protein and lipids and low in fibre and potential toxins.
- Younger baboons learn from their parents what is good and safe to eat, inquisitive younger baboons usually discover new food sources, and this knowledge is then quickly passed through the troop.
- Sadly, there is continuous growth of conflict between humans and this species as we progressively creep into their natural environment.
How they talk to one another
- Body posture and facial expressions are used to demonstrate anger, excitement or even arousal.
- The highest-ranking males will give a “bokkum” bark which warns of predators nearby or conflict between males within the troop.
- Friendly behaviour is demonstrated through soft grunts, avoiding eye contact and, strangely enough, retracting their lips and showing clenched teeth.
- Often two individuals will touch noses when they meet as a sign of friendliness. Most often you will find baboons grooming one another which really reiterates the strong bonds within a group.
Baboons really are fascinating animals; we have only touched on a few of their interesting behavioural traits and habits in this blog. Not only do they bring real delight to anyone spending time with them, but they also play a very integral part in the local food web.