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Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel
Klaserie Sands River Camp

Baboons are often overlooked by the experienced safari goer. Their antics and tendency for theft around humans have given them a bad reputation, and many people regard them as pests. However, if you take the time to observe baboons in their natural environment, you might just see another side to them.

I enjoy watching baboons – their social interactions are interesting, their hierarchy complex, and watching the youngsters play is nothing short of adorable.

The social structure of a baboon troop is usually made up of a group of dominant males, females and their young. This type of structure where males outrank females, is known as an oligarchy. There are separate dominance hierarchies for male and female baboons. However, when a female is in oestrus all of the dominant males will mate with her and all take up the important responsibility of playing dad. Daughters of dominant females inherit their mother’s rank, so even an infant of a highly ranked female will outrank an older subordinate female. If you spend time with a troop of baboons, you will soon notice these class distinctions. Lesser ranked individuals are often seen grooming more dominant baboons.

chacma-baboon

The gestation period for baboons is about six months and, although they give birth throughout the year, there tends to be a birthing peak in the summer. Baboon infants are a pleasure to observe. They enjoy exploring, annoying their parents and often making a fool of themselves. I was recently fortunate to spend some time with a troop that allowed me to get quite close to them without disturbing their behaviour.

It was pushing 40ºC and, very sensibly, the majority of the troop slept peacefully in the shade. Despite the docile atmosphere in the heat of the afternoon, there was one very young baboon, complete with pink nose and ears, which was full of life! His mother, presumably a highly ranked female, was attempting to relax and was being groomed by a younger female.

The infant ran this way and that, and he then tried to amuse himself with a stick.

baboon-chewing-on-stick

When this wasn’t enough to keep him entertained, he attempted to shakily climb a branch and interestingly used his mother’s arm to balance and to stand on.
baboon-climbing-branch

The afternoon heat of the day got the better of the mother and she attempted to take a little nap. Meanwhile, her youngster explored a rock.

baboon-playing-on-a-rock

And when this, too, proved not exciting enough, he proceeded to jump on his sleeping mother.

baboon-jumping-on-his-mum

She tactfully ignored him, and within a few minutes he fell fast asleep snuggling against her.

baboon-cuddle

This lasted all of five minutes and then he began annoying her and demanding food. The mother baboon did nothing more than roll over, exposing her teat fully by holding her arm high in the air and attempted to continue with her nap.

baboon-suckling

At this I left the two in peace and hoped for the mother’s sake that she and her youngster would have a proper siesta after his feed.

Airlink
Michelle Sole

Michelle Sole is a safari and polar guide, wildlife photographer and blogger. As a child, Michelle always had a love and respect for nature, animals and the outdoors. She competed for Great Britain as an alpine ski racer for ten years, chasing winters around the world. On a family holiday to Africa in 2008, Michelle fell in love with elephants. In 2011 she moved to South Africa where she completed her studies to become a field guide and worked for five and a half years in the Waterberg Biosphere in South Africa. In 2017 Michelle spent a year backpacking around the globe, travelling from one national park to another. At the end of the year she spent three months guiding in Antarctica. She now divides her time between the African sun and the Antarctic ice, sharing with guests her passion for whales, birds and photography. Her thrill for adventure, the outdoors and adrenaline are at the core of her photography and writing. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram.