Baboon watching can be one of the most charming activities in the bush. These creatures, so like humans in some ways, provide us with hours of entertainment, and much laughter. A troop of baboons can consist of anywhere between 3 to 100 members and its size is based mainly on the availability of food and water. Troop leaders are usually the dominant male of the group, but not always the only male, cohesions have been seen between two or more males who manage the females. The females are protected carefully not only from predators, but also from other males. Interaction between troops can happen but is not frequent, each dominant baboon preferring to keep his ladies eyes from checking out the competition.
The species found in Zimbabwe is the Chacma Baboon, having coats of a khaki colored , long tails and smallish ears. They spend a lot of their day foraging for food, being omnivorous their diet is very varied even resorting to scavenging if needed. They can be seen wandering the flood plains of Mana Pools, collecting the fallen Faidherbia Albida pods, or rooting round in a termites nest. You can often guess in which tree a troop of baboons is feeding on from the herd of impala beneath it collecting any tasty morsels that the careless primates drop. They also act as look outs for the impala, being at a higher level and able to see further.
Baby baboons are born with a smattering of dark fluffy fur, and cling to their mother or siblings for protection. As they grow, like all children, they test their boundaries and their mothers patience constantly, rough and tumbling with their cousins, tormenting older baboons, or poking their noses into places where they shouldn’t.
Troops are constantly renewing their bonds as a family, this is done mainly by grooming each other. There is nothing nicer than seeing a pair of ladies in a sunny spot on a winters afternoon, combing through each others hair. You can just imagine the gossiping that is happening between them, discussing the days events, other primates or creatures they happened across and putting the world to rights. The next time you come across a troop of baboons, don’t be so quick to dismiss them and move on, take a bit of time to sit and watch their interactions, I’m sure they will provide you with some laughs.