Facts about baboons

Facts about baboons, Baboons are primates comprising the genus Papio, one of the 23 genera of Old World monkeys, in the family Cercopithecidae. There are six species of baboon: the hamadryas baboon, the Guinea baboon, the olive baboon, the yellow baboon, the Kinda baboon and the chacma baboon.

Baboons are some of the most identifiable of the monkey world. They have tufts of hair on either side of their faces and large, hairless bottoms that can turn red. These old-world monkeys also do not have prehensile tails like some other monkeys, which means they don’t use their tail like a hand.

Where do baboons usually live?
Baboons are only found in a very specific area of the world: Africa and Arabia. Four species, the chacma, olive, yellow and Guinea, live in the savannas. Others live in other semi-arid habitats, though some baboons can sometimes be found in tropical forests. The Hamadryas baboon lives in the hills along the Red Sea.

Unlike other monkeys, baboons stay on the ground much of the time. They do sleep, eat or keep watch in trees, though.

How do baboons socialise?
Baboons are very social creatures. Groups of baboons are called troops, and a troop can contain dozens to hundreds of members. The largest troops have up to 300 members. Troops groom, sleep and protect each other.

Young baboons in the troop will also play together. Games include wrestling, swinging from vines and chase. A dominant male usually runs the troop. Males are usually ranked in dominance by age and size while females are usually ranked by birth order.

Females are generally quite close to their maternal relatives – their mothers, aunts, and sisters. They groom them, rest near them, and aid them in social conflicts much more often than they do non-relatives.

What do baboons usually feed on?
Baboons are omnivores meaning they eat both plant and animal materials. Most of their diet comprises fruit, seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, the thick bases of grass stems and invertebrates. They are extremely resourceful and will eat almost anything except rotting meat.

They even hunt. Baboons will capture small mammals and birds opportunistically including rabbits, birds like Egyptian geese and small antelope lambs. It is usually the more dominant males who will hunt and eat meat.

Baboons have dexterous hands with opposable thumbs. These are used to manipulate various food substances while foraging and feeding. This may take the form of peeling tough skin off fruit or overturning rocks in search of scorpions, insects or slugs. The fingers are nailed to assist with digging.

They will dig up clumps of grass which they shake free of loose dirt before eating or they may patiently dig to unearth a juicy bulb up to 30 cm below even hard ground.

How do baboons associate with humans?
Baboons are one of the most abundant and wide-spread species of monkey in Africa. Baboons are close evolutionary relatives to humans, and on average, baboons and humans have a genetic similarity of 94%. Like many primates, baboons are highly social.

Baboons are not generally thought of as on the same level as the great apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, but they probably have equal intelligence and they have loyalties to humans for the same reason that dogs.

Why not pare a minute and watch the baboons while driving through the parks.

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