Chacma Baboons are the Waterberg’s resident variety and are very evident this time of the year foraging for food. Expansion of human settlements and habitation has led to an increase in human-baboon conflict.
The name Chacma is derived from the Khoikhoi word for baboon, choachamma and they are the largest of the monkeys reaching up to 40kg in the males. All primates with tails are classified as monkeys, only apes have no tails. Baboons are very agile climbers but spend a large amount of time on the ground foraging for a diversity of food. These can range from fruits, grasses, seeds, bark, insects and roots, but they also have a taste for meat, including birds, rodents, and even the young of larger mammals, such as antelope and sheep. According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute, “they are also highly selective in their food choices, with nutrient composition playing a large role in food selection. Reports claim that baboons typically choose foods that are high in protein and lipids and low in fibre and potential toxins”. This is learned behaviour with young animals copying the older troop members as discovery of new food source information spreads through the group.
Baboons are a fascinating and intelligent species that have complex social structures and interactions, even prompting the well-known naturalist and poet Eugene Marais to dedicate "The Soul of the Ape" and "My Friends the Baboons" to them after devoting 3 years of study to the baboons. Baboons are a common inhabitant of the Waterberg landscape as it provides ample cliffs, rocky outcrops and tall trees used to overnight away from predators, as well as constant water supply and habitat for a wide range of food.
As a highly social species that could form groups of up to 200, communicating through visual, vocal and tactile means. If one adds highly developed senses, it makes for a formidable adversary. They are preyed upon by lion, leopard, jackal, spotted hyena, as well as raptors and pythons.
The reproductive cycle of baboons is quite short with a gestation period of 6 months and a lifespan of 30 to 40 years.
by Cobus Greyling | Photograph by Robin Taylor