MAD MAMMAL MONDAY 3 JUNE CHACMA

Today’s MAD MAMMAL is the MISCHIEVOUS MONKEY, the Chacma Baboon! Chacma Baboons (Papio Ursinus) are often regarded as pests, especially in the Cape region, but these crazy creatures are actually very intelligent and share a lot of behavioural traits with us humans, which is maybe why people find them so pesky ;)

The Chacma Baboon, like all other baboons, is from the Old World monkey family, and also one of the largest baboon species, with a body length of up to 115 cm, and weighing from 15 to 35 kg. But unlike their brothers from up north, male Chacmas don’t have manes. Chacmas do however have a shaggy patch of hair on the nape of their necks. Chacmas are gray to dark brown, with darker extremities and tail, and running speeds of up to 45kph can be achieved. Imagine that!!

Baboons are sexually dimorphic, males being significantly larger than females (reaching sexual maturity at around six or seven years of age), and males develop canine teeth as long as 5 cm, larger than those of lions, WOW!

Chacmas can be found in most of southern Africa, from South Africa north to Angola, Zambia and Mozambique, and are divided into three subspecies within that range (the Cape Chacma, the Gray-footed Chacma in northern S.A. and Zambia, and the Ruacana Chacma in Namibia and southern Angola), with  colour and size variations in the different areas.

Although they spend most of their time on the ground searching and foraging for food, these silly baboons spend their evenings in high trees (sometimes sleeping on very narrow branches!) or rocky outcrops, escaping the possible dangers of leopards and other predators.

Chacma Baboons mainly prefer nice fresh fruits, nuts, tubers and invertebrates, but they are omnivorous, which means that they eat anything and everything, even human-derived food! That is why it is super important NOT to feed these gentle beings and NOT to have any food around them, otherwise they might not be viewed as gentle any more :( Many people claim to have been ‘attacked’ by baboons before, but these misunderstood animals were probably just trying to retrieve the most important thing they see in front of them, food!

Baboons are very social animals and communicate through various means, including body attitude, facial expressions, touch and sounds like lip-smacking, grunting, kecking and wahooing. Troops are characterised by a dominance hierarchy, females inheriting it from their mothers, while male ranking is tenuous and have to be fought for. Females thus form the core of the troop as males move between troops in their quest for the position as alpha male.

Females give birth to one infant after a gestation period of six months, generally reproducing once every two years, and couples often stay together to raise the young. Males as well as other females from the troop have even been witnessed to foster infants if the mother was killed – and people say that they are not loving and caring? Pah!

Papa baboon giving some sweet lovin

Even though Chacmas are not considered as threatened, there is an on-going war between humans and the wildlife, as human expansion increases and foraging grounds and the natural environment of baboons decreases. Because they live near human habitats, baboons are shot, electrocuted, poisoned, run over and captured for the pet industry or lab research. Human intervention has thus been found to influence troop structures, and there has been a considerable loss in numbers in certain areas.

According to Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation  Centre, Chacma baboons have been on the Cape Peninsula for over 1 million years. However, unless trends change, the remaining 250 Chacma baboons of the Cape South Peninsula face extinction within 10 years.

They go on to say that in 2005, 50% of baboon deaths were caused by humans and by 2008, this had increased to 70%. Most of these deaths were from vehicles or guns.

Please be smart around baboons and DO NOT FEED them! And please keep those awesome pictures coming to submit to our Virtual Museum.

For more fantastic info and common misconceptions about these whimsical baboons, visit this very rad informative site put together by Larissa Swedell and Julian Saunders.

Check in next Monday for another beautiful baboon – this time from up north!

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