Although five species have been identified – the olive, yellow, Guinea, hamadryas and chacma – baboons are known to interbreed at their boundaries, forming hybridisation zones.
Male baboons are powerful fighters, showing little fear of larger animals, and have been known to attack leopards. Visual communication is important to deter both attacks from predators and fighting among male baboons. They have many signals to communicate threat and dominance, including intense staring, flashing of the eyelids, ground slapping, chewing, tooth grinding, yawning and baring their canine teeth, eyebrow raising, ear flattening, and shaking of rocks and branches. They also make more than thirty unique vocalisations, including barks and screams.
Most baboons live in hierarchical ‘troops’ of five to 200 or more animals which are based on a core of females and juveniles, and may include several transient males. Male baboons leave their birth group, usually around puberty, whereas females stay in the same group their whole lives.
Females typically give birth every other year, usually to a single infant after a six-month gestation. The newborn baboon weighs approximately one kilogram and, whilst the mother tends to be the primary caregiver, several females will share caring duties.
*International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species.
The Guinea baboon is Near Threatened; other species are Least Concern
Data Not Available
Omnivorous – berries, seeds, pods, grass, shoots, twigs, fruits, bulbs, bark, flowers, roots, maize, cassava, sweet potato and insects, as well as small antelope and other mammals, fish, and reptiles such as tortoises
Baboons are extremely adaptable and can be found in open savannah, woodland, dry forest, gallery forest, semi-arid habitats, and even tropical forest
West, central and east Africa
Wild baboons face a number of threats, including being hunted for bushmeat or trapped and taken for medical research.
Many baboons are killed each year due to human conflict – the Guinea baboon is particularly persecuted, being hunted either for its meat or to prevent raids on cultivated crops.
Guinea and hamadryas baboons, which have fairly restricted ranges, are also threatened by loss of habitat caused by deforestation for agricultural expansion. Traditionally, hamadryas baboons were hunted for their skins which were worn in ceremonies.
Rescue, care and release of baboons through the Zambia Primate Project, one of Africa’s most successful primate release programmes; the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre in Malawi; and our own wildlife rescue, conservation and education centre, Ensessa Kotteh in Ethiopia.