Two baboons grooming each other


Papio anubis, Papio cynocephalus, Papio hamadryas, Papio ursinus, Papio papio, Papio kindae

Why are baboons important?

Baboons eat a wide variety of plant species and, through their dung, help distribute seeds, helping to contribute to diverse ecosystems.

Key Baboon Facts

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Olive baboon (Papio anubis) – Least Concern; yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) – Least Concern; Hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas)  Least Concern; Chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) – Least Concern; Guinea baboon (Papio papio) – Near Threatened; Kinda baboon (Papio kindae) – Least Concern

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Olive baboon – population unknown*, stable; yellow baboon – population unknown*, stable; Hamadryas baboon – population unknown*, increasing; Chacma baboon – population unknown*, decreasing; Guinea baboon – population unknown*, decreasing; Kinda baboon population unknown*, stable. Last assessed 2019-2021

* According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

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Semi-deserts, steppes, mountains, woodlands, mangrove, tropical forests, savannahs

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Sub-Saharan Africa, Saudi Arabia and Yemen

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Weight: 9-31kg, height (shoulder): 50-75cm

Baboon illustration


Disease, hunting, habitat loss, human-baboon conflict, climate change, research

A mother baboon with a baby on her back

Did you know?!

While mother baboons tend to be the primary caregiver for their young, several females from the troop will share caring duties for infants.

How to recognise a baboon

Baboons are one of the largest monkey species in the world. They are also some of the most identifiable given their large stature, big tufts of hair on their faces and their large, often brightly coloured, hairless bottoms. Baboons share around 94% of their genetic make-up with humans.

Where do baboons live?

Baboons live in many different habitats from semi-desert and open savannah to mountains and mangroves. Because of the diverse range of habitats that baboons inhabit, their diet is hugely varied and can include fruits, leaves, flowers, seeds, shoots, buds, tuberous roots, bark, bulbs, twigs, sap, mushrooms, lichens, invertebrates, lizards, birds, reptile and bird eggs and small mammals.

Many baboon populations also live closely alongside humans, leading to crop raiding and foraging in rubbish dumps. Some species are more restricted in their range. For example, the Hamadryas baboon only inhabits areas of flat unforested grassland, hillsides and mountains, bordering the Red Sea.


A mother and baby baboon sitting in long grass

Wild baboons (c) Jorge Tung, Unsplash

Baboon behaviour

Baboons spend most of their time on the ground foraging for food. They are mostly considered to be opportunistic feeders rather than animals who engage in active hunting regularly.

Most wild baboons live in hierarchical ‘troops’ ranging from five to 200 or more animals. These troops are based on a core of females and juveniles, and may include several transient males. Some species live in much smaller troops of one male and just a few females. Male baboons leave their birth group, usually around puberty, whereas females stay in the same group their whole lives. Their lifespan is typically 20-30 years, but they can live up to 40 years.

Baboons have a very complex system of communication which includes vocalisations, body language and facial expressions. They use body language and facial expressions to communicate most of the time. A typical facial expression, for example, is a wide open mouth to show their large canine teeth as a threat against other baboons or animals.

They have many other signals to communicate threat and dominance, including intense staring, flashing of the eyelids, ground slapping, chewing, tooth grinding, yawning, eyebrow raising, ear flattening, and shaking of rocks and branches. Females may use body language, such as presenting her rump to males, to show that she is receptive to mating.

Females typically give birth every other year, usually to a single infant after a six-month gestation. Baboons have been observed to show a lot of affection to their young through gestures and play.


A group of three baboons in the wild

Wild baboons (c) Pixabay

What are the threats to baboons?

Read more about the threats to the world's baboon population.

Baboon populations can be subject to serious diseases that can cause death of individuals, and a decrease in the overall population.

Across many parts of their range, baboons are hunted for bushmeat. This is not only impacting baboon populations but is also a significant health risk to people as baboons can harbour serious viruses that can be transmitted to humans.

In some parts of their range, baboons are hunted for traditional medicine or cultural practices. For example, in Ethiopia, male Hamadryas baboons are hunted for their skins which are used in ceremonial cloaks.

Baboons are also targeted by trophy hunters. Like all primates, baboons are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Nevertheless, in the decade to 2021, some 8,500 baboon trophies were declared to have been exported internationally, including 145 to the UK. Baboons are often included in hunting ‘packages’, to be used as ‘target practice’ by hunters who ultimately target other species they consider more valuable. In some cases, trophy hunters have posted images of themselves posing with family groups of baboons they have killed for fun.

All species of baboons are under threat due to habitat loss driven by agriculture and development projects.

Many baboon populations live close to human habitation. As opportunistic feeders, baboons often make the most of highly nutritious crops grown by farmers and ‘human food’ in urban area, either discarded rubbish, dumps or directly from kitchens. Where these forms of raiding are increasing, baboons may be persecuted or killed in retaliation. Farmers and communities may take preventative actions and kill baboons, considered to be ‘vermin’ in many range countries, before raiding events occur.

In the past, baboons were collected in vast numbers for research. Baboons were exported from their wild homes for use in laboratories and medical research facilities.

What is Born Free doing to help baboons?

Born Free works to protect baboons from the threats they face, both in the wild and in captivity.
A baboon in a cage

Wildlife Trade

International trade in baboons, or parts and products derived from them, is regulated by CITES, as it is for all primate species. Nevertheless, baboons are among the top 10 CITES-listed species targeted by international trophy hunters: Born Free opposes trophy hunting on ethical grounds and works to secure bans on the trophy trade.
A wild baboon in a tree

International Education

Born Free aims to protect baboons from illegal ownership and conflict with local communities in Zambia and Ethiopia, helping them better understand laws around baboon and monkey ownership and welfare. In addition, we work with communities in Ethiopia living alongside wild baboons to reduce conflict, supporting both baboon and human communities.
A baboon sitting in a zoo enclosure.

Captive Animals

Born Free campaigns for a ban on the trade in and keeping of primates and other wild animals as exotic pets in the UK and European Union. We also work to end captive exploitation of these animals in zoos, circuses and other captive facilities around the world.