Baboon, a large monkey that inhabits savannahs and rocky hills in Africa and southwestern Arabia. Baboons range in length from 40 to 72 inches (1 to 1.8 m), including a 19- to 27-inch (48- to 69-cm) tail. They weigh up to 90 pounds (41 kg).
The most common species is the hamadryas baboon of northeastern Africa. It has coarse, brown hair that turns ashy gray with age. The males have a thick mane of hair around the neck and shoulders, prominent canine teeth, and an elongated muzzle. The face and rump of all baboons are bare.
Baboons live in groups, called troops, of 30 to 100 individuals; each troop is headed by an adult male. Baboons feed on grass, insects, small mammals and birds, and fish. They are social animals, spending long periods of time grooming one another. When alarmed, baboons run in a galloping gait on all fours.
Females become sexually mature at the age of five; males, at the age of eight. Once a month, when the female goes into heat, her rump changes color from gray to pink. After a gestation period of six months, the female bears one young. The young becomes independent at the age of 18 months, when it is weaned.
Several species of baboons are endangered due to loss of habitat and indiscriminate hunting for their edible flesh.
Baboons make a lot of faces. Sometimes they look as if they are smiling. Sometimes they raise their eyebrows. Or they can even make a face like the one you see here. Whatever face a baboon makes, the face sends information to other baboons.
Baboons are social animals. They live in troops, or large groups. Good communication between troop members is important. It can help prevent fights. And it can keep everybody safe.
When a baboon makes a face, it is trying to communicate a specific message. If a baboon shows off its sharp teeth, it’s telling other baboons, “Be careful or else!” If a baboon grins, it’s telling another baboon, “I’m sorry.”
A baboon troop can have from 10 to 200 members. Most of these members are adult females and their young. Adult males make up the rest of the troop. For such a big group, baboon troops are very well organized. Each member has a certain rank, or position. Several dominant adult males lead the troop. These males are the strongest baboons in the troop. It’s up to them to keep the troop in order.
The leaders have a lot of responsibilities. They decide where the troop travels, feeds, and sleeps. And they organize the troop’s defense against enemies. It’s not all hard work for the leaders though. They get the first pick of food. And there’s always a fellow troop member ready to groom or clean them.
Like all wild animals, baboons can get very dirty. They also can get animals such as insects, ticks, and mites stuck in their fur. These creatures, called parasites (PAIR uh syts), bite or suck a baboon’s blood. They may even spread diseases. So it’s important for a baboon to get rid of these pests. Luckily, a baboon has help grooming. One baboon helps another groom by carefully picking parasites and dirt out of the other baboon’s fur. Grooming is an important part of baboon life. It helps baboons develop strong relationships with one another. It helps keep their relationships strong, too. Usually, lower-ranking members groom higher-ranking members of a baboon troop.
Every so often, a baboon needs to get a message to the whole troop. But troop members can spread far apart as they search for food. Or, if they are traveling, the baboons may be in a very long line. So what’s a baboon to do? That’s easy. It barks. A baboon’s bark is a very loud call that sounds like “Wahoo!” Baboons use their booming barks to warn each other when there is danger. Scientists believe that certain barks tell other baboons very specific messages. For example, one kind of bark might alert other baboons that a lion is nearby.
Their loud barks can scare enemies away, too. A baboon also has four canines, which are long, pointed teeth. If an enemy gets too close, a baboon will open its mouth wide and show off its canines.
Baboons have many enemies, including other baboons. Sometimes two males bark at each other when they are competing for the same female. If barking doesn’t scare off one of the baboons, the two may fight for dominance.
Baboons will also fight an enemy to defend the troop. But they usually prefer to avoid enemies rather than to fight them. Baboons are fast animals. With their long arms and powerful legs, they can often outrun most enemies.
Baboons are also excellent climbers. They have long tails, which help them keep their balance on branches. If a baboon can’t outrun an enemy, it will climb a tree.
During the day, baboons can climb trees to avoid enemies. But at night they often climb high up to the sides of cliffs or treetops for protection. Once there, baboons settle down and go to sleep.
Climbing so high just to go to sleep might seem like a lot of work. But there’s a reason baboons do this. Leopards, lions, and hyenas all hunt baboons. These enemies and others live on the ground. And many of them often hunt at night. So when it gets dark out, baboons go where most of their enemies don’t. They go up.
Once on the side of a cliff or in a treetop, baboons are safe from most attacks. Up there, baboons don’t have to worry too much about their enemies. And they can get a good night’s sleep.
Baboons and some other Old World monkeys have special pouches that line the insides of their cheeks. Baboons often fill these pouches with their favorite food: fruit.
When baboons feed, it’s every baboon for itself. Baboons sometimes even steal each other’s food. On top of that, there’s always the danger of an enemy prowling nearby. That’s why a baboon’s cheek pouches can really come in handy. Cheek pouches allow a baboon to gather a lot of food in a short amount of time. The baboon can then store its food there until it’s safe to eat.
Besides fruit, baboons also eat leaves, insects, and roots. Baboons also work together to get larger meals. They sometimes hunt in groups for small animals such as young impalas and gazelles.
Female baboons, like other Old World monkeys, give birth to one baby at a time. When the baby is born, it is tiny and helpless. It clings to its mother’s fur. Like other mammals, the baby baboon depends on its mother’s milk for food.The mother keeps a close eye on her newborn baby. She often carries it under her belly wherever she goes. As the baby grows older, the mother begins to carry it on her back.
A mother baboon can count on fellow troop members to help her care for her baby. Others in the troop sometimes carry the babies, too. When danger is near, the mothers and their young head for cover. Large adult males usually drive away any enemies.
When a young male baboon turns four, it usually leaves the troop and joins another one. Females remain in the same troop for their entire lives.
The adult male hamadryas baboon has long gray hair that hangs down over his shoulders. Males may not grow this hair until they are 10. In time, it looks just like a cape.
Hamadryas baboons form groups, just as other baboons do. But hamadryas groups are not like other baboon troops. A hamadryas group is called a harem. A harem is made up of several females and their young and one adult male. He is the leader. Sometimes harems come together and form much larger groups.
Hamadryas baboons mainly eat seeds, roots, and leaves. They also eat small mammals and insects. They’ll even raid crops and garbage dumps, too.
Baboons belong to the Old World monkey family, Cercopithecidae. The hamadryas baboon is Papio hamadryas.