Baboons – It’s all about the grub

Posted by Oakhurst Farm Cottage - 3 Mar 2022 | Blog

Like them or not, baboons are part of life on Oakhurst. They’ve been roaming the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains and the surrounding kloofs and valleys for millennia. From time to time they’ve been a menace in our maize crops, but generally we’ve learnt to live life alongside these primates by following a few simple rules.

Like them or not, baboons are real characters!

Bring in the troops

Baboons are a social bunch and we’ve got three troops which move through the farm. These troops stick to their established territories and troop members will generally stay together, moving slowly through an area during the course of the day. Foraging, feeding and grooming play a major role in the daily agenda, while youngsters cavort around without a care in the world.

The adults

Watch a troop closely and it becomes clear who the various role players are. Top dog, so to speak is the alpha male, usually the largest troop member who’s fended off many a challenger in his time. The alpha male also takes charge of discipline and doesn’t hesitate to dish out a good hiding should he need to. Females will stay in their birth troop for life. If they’re high ranking amongst the others of the same sex, that position will be passed onto their offspring. Females form strong bonds with each other and tend to be fully occupied with “child care”, feeding and keeping the young out of trouble.

Grooming, a big part of troop life.

The youngsters

From tiny infants clinging to their mothers bellies to the those boisterous juveniles, young baboons seem to posses an infinite amount of energy. These characters can be highly entertaining to watch, but it’s not all fun and games for them, they’ve got responsibilities too. Juveniles play an important role in helping out with the little ones, keeping an eye on them and stepping in if they need help. Sub-adults are the equivalent of the human teenager. True to character, they’re often pushing the boundaries and challenging their parents.

Still growing into those ears. A young baboon and its mother.

Bring in the humans

Now here’s were things get tricky. Baboons on Oakhurst will generally avoid humans, except when it comes to food. The primary reason they may wonder around closer to the Oakhurst accommodation, is the chance of an easy picking from an outside table or open kitchen door. Out in the wild, when feeding, it’s every baboon for himself. Dominant troop members will quite happily help themselves to a morsel from a lower ranking member. This means that as humans, feeding a baboon is essentially telling the creature that we rank lower than them.

Hide the grub

The golden rule is to leave food out of site. There’s little chance of a baboon joining you at the dinner table, but head out for a walk and leave your cottage or tent open, with your tasty holiday treats on display and they’ll happily help themselves. Generally speaking, keep your food stashed away and out of site and there’s less chance of baboons being tempted into visiting your Oakhurst accommodation.

As evening sets in, baboons will head into trees to roost and avoid predators.

Closing up

If you’re leaving your accommodation, always close the doors and windows. Africamps tents should have all zips closed up. If nearby, baboons will be aware of you leaving your accommodation and may wait for you to move away before taking the chance and looking around for an open window, door or tent zip.

Out and about

You might come across baboons while you’re out walking or cycling on the farm. They’ll mostly move off and avoid you. Best advice is to give them their space and not to make them feel trapped or threatened. They’re not confrontational and keeping a healthy distance between you and them is a good approach.

Tuning in

We’ve recently introduced simple FM radios to the Africamps tents. They’ve proved to be a great deterrent to inquisitive baboons and vervet monkeys. The radios are left tuned into one of the talk radio stations when the tents are not occupied by guests. This baffles our primate friends, who on getting closer are convinced that guests are in the tent and therefore keep their distance.

Simple FM radio’s tuned into a talk radio station inside unnocupied Africamps tents have proved to be a great way to keep baboons away.

Don’t panic

As with many things in a rural environment, living with baboons is something we’ve become completely used to, but we understand that for visitors it can be a little scary. Without the temptation of food and giving them their space produces a positive outcome. While they may seem intimidating at times, baboons fear humans. Best advice, don’t panic, enjoy watching them and remember…it’s all about the grub!

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