Geladas are fascinating animals, endemic to Ethiopia, they are sometimes called mountain baboons because they bear something of a physical resemblance to the more common olive baboon (Papio anubis) and they only live at high altitudes. Geladas are not only a different species, they are so unusual that they are classified in a genus all of their own, scientifically they are called Theropithecus gelada.
The problem BFFE has in caring for geladas is their social structure, which cannot be replicated. They live in large troops made up of one dominant male, and many related females and their offspring. The females live in what is called a harem and it is they who choose who is to be the dominant male. Consequently, there is a lot of politicking in gelada society with the male always trying to keep his harem on side. Outside of the harems are bachelor groups of unstable composition.
Like many animals baboons are cute when they are young. They are playful, energetic, have appealing faces and, being primates, they have human-like characteristics. That is probably why people want to keep them as “pets”. Unfortunately, that normally means keeping them tied around the neck, devoid of the maternal care and social stimulation that young baboons need: in the wild they would play with youngsters of their own age, working out their place in their troop’s social hierarchy.
This gives us at BFF Ethiopia a problem because we have to try to teach them to be baboons again. All the baboons we receive come in as individuals, who we then have to integrate together to be come a functioning social group which we can hopefully release. So far, so good.
As of August 2013, we have six baboons in our care: three females and three males. The funny thing is that Corolla, a female, even though she is not the biggest, is the uncontested boss of the group while Kore (so named because he came from the Korean Hospital) is her fierce little lieutenant.
It is still unclear what the future holds for them but the BFFE team would like to release them as a group into one of the national parks. Certainly, they are nicely bonded and are all fit and healthy. On most days, Kore and Kasanchis spend so much time playing tag they probably end up running the equivalent of a half-marathon. A release protocol for the baboons is being developed.
So far BFFE has rescued and subsequently released three Geladas back into the wild: watch the video below