Chacma Baboons: Fighting a Losing Battle with Humans
Chacma (or Cape) baboons are a large monkey widespread across southern Africa. The species is not at immediate risk of extinction, but is fighting a losing battle with humans who are expanding into their habitats. Seen as pests for raiding crops and livestock, chacma baboons are shot and poisoned by farmers.
How Nikela Helps
These deliberate acts of violence and accidental hazards mean baboons are suffering painful deaths, horrific injuries and their babies are being orphaned. Nikela supports primate protector Silke von Eynern who rescues and rehabilitates primates giving them a second chance at freedom.
Information About Baboons
Distribution & habitat
Found across southern Africa, this primate occupies a variety of habitats, including savannah, woodland, semi-desert and montane environments. The species is restricted to habitats where there is access to drinking water. However, one group of chacma baboons has overcome this restriction in the Namib Desert by obtaining water from the moisture in plants.
The chacma baboon has a distinctive appearance. It has a dog-like muzzle and long canine teeth. The species’ hair is light grey or olive-brown. They have bare skin on their faces, ears, hands and feet. The female’s appearance gets even more striking during her reproductive cycle. To signal to males she’s in oestrus, the female develops brightly-colored genital swellings, while in pregnancy her rump turns bright red.
Chacma baboons are omnivores. They eat a range of plant material, including seeds, roots, fruit and shoots. They also eat a variety of meat products including small prey like crabs and fish, plus occasionally consume larger prey like young antelope. In urban areas, baboons will steal food crops and prey on livestock which often causes conflict with humans.
Behaviour and social groups
Highly social animals, chacma baboons live in groups (called a troop) of around 50 individuals. Each troop contains adult males, females and their offspring. The troop has a complex social structure, with individuals ranked by dominance.
Young baboons are carried by their mother, initially clinging to her chest and later riding on her back. By eight-years-old the offspring has reached maturity. Mature females will stay with the troop, while males leave to join another group.
Chacma baboons spend most of their time on the ground. They walk on all four limbs and spend their days foraging for food. The baboons have cheek pouches which enable them to store food for later. The species retreats to trees or a cliff at night to escape predators, including cheetahs and leopards. Troops will attack aggressively when threatened by a predator.
The baboon species uses a number of vocalisations, including grunts, screams and barks. An alarm bark is used to alert other members of the group to the presence of a predator, while contact barks are used by mothers to call their baby when separated and by troop members to communicate with each other.
Conservation status and threats
Classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, the chacma baboon is a widespread species and is not currently threatened with immediate extinction. Some populations, however, are decreasing in size. The species is hunted for bushmeat, captured for the pet trade and used in medical research, but the main issue facing the baboons is human-wildlife conflict. Chacma baboons are often seen as pests when they enter human-inhabited areas and steal crops, damage plantations and prey on livestock. This angers farmers who shoot and poison the baboons. The primates can often fall victim to other hazards in urban environments like electricity pylons and vehicles.
Information reserached and provided by Nikela Volunteer Danielle Boobyer