Baboons are right up there with the top animals in the park for me. Never ceasing to amuse me with their behaviour. I heard of one guest actually thinking they were called buffoons, quite accurate really.
Alongside their clowning around their other behavioural traits are fascinating. Baboons do a number of interesting things including kidnapping baby baboons to rise to the top of the hierarchy, they’ll also beat up misbehaving juveniles who can in turn be protected by their assigned ‘godfather’. Time spent studying a baboon troop is never wasted.
I’d already witnessed a baboon being killed by a leopard but this wasn't the last dead baboon I saw.
Female baboons have incredibly strong maternal instincts, every other baboon is interested in the new additions but they are fiercely defensive of their offspring, only letting a select few have a hold or groom.
One afternoon we were driving past a foraging troop when we noticed something strange. Straggling behind the rest of the group was a lone female but she had a youngster. Usually females with young will hang out together for protection and the youngsters play with each other, not on the dangerous outskirts of the troop where they can get picked off easily by eagles and other predators.
This female was different though. Instead of the youngster clasping to her as a normal juvenile would she was having to hold it to her. As we got closer it became apparent what had happened, mainly due to the smell. This youngster had actually died but baboons amazingly won’t give up on a dead baby. No other baboons were associating with her, even the accompanying impala were actively going round her, not grazing too close. Female baboons have been known to cling onto the babies remains until they are just bones.
It’s unlikely that this female was mourning but maybe some could argue she was, after all baboons can’t talk. It is more likely she was clinging on to the hope that by having a youngster her stature in the troop wouldn’t be affected. A female with a baby will remain much higher in the troop’s hierarchy than a baboon with no offspring.