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They are considered monkeys, but baboons (Papio spp., Nyani) are considerably larger than other members of the family (such as the vervet monkey). A more obvious distinction is their dog-like snout, compared with the flattened faces of other monkeys. Baboon behavior is complex, based on a social hierarchy within bands or troops up to 50 strong. Males control the group dynamics, with the dominance based on size. The largest individuals may weigh 80lbs, and display formidable canines in intimidating threat displays. These are enough to deter all but the fiercest predators, the main one being the leopard. However, even leopards rarely take baboons easily—numerous well-documented cases tell of groups of baboon successfully defending themselves from a leopard.

There are about eight species of baboons, but their ranges do not overlap. The yellow baboon (P. cynocephalus) is the species prevalent in East Africa. It has a slender build and a gray color above but a lighter shade elsewhere, especially the cheeks. The similar-looking chacma baboon (P. ursinus) is the species of southern Africa. The Neumann's or olive baboon (P. anubis) is the most widespread, ranging through arid areas of the southern Sahara. The olive Baboon is thick-set, has an olive-gray shaggy coat, and a rich mane over the shoulders and cheeks.

With it's dog-like snout the baboon doesn't look like a typical monkey. Yet this is the dominant primate of the African savanna, and serves an important role in ecosystem function. Like most primates, baboons are pack animals and roam in family groups of 10 to 30. They are omnivorous, and snack on insects, grubs, small vertebrates, tubers and fruits.

Baboons are highly successful and widespread primates of Africa and Asia. The many species vary considerably in size but otherwise look alike. Baboons have a doglike muzzle, large cheek pouches and a short tail. Males have long incisors which are very effective both in threat displays and fights.

They are the largest African savanna monkey: a big male can stand five feet (1.5 m) and weigh over 60 pounds (27 kg) but baboons of all sizes occur in a troop.

The average baboon is about three feet (91 cm) tall with an 18 inch (46 cm) tail. They live to about ten years and gestation lasts around six months.

As with most primates, baboons have a complex social organization. Three or four dominant males control the troop and look out for danger, usually leopard. Leopards favor baboons on their menu and are important in limiting their population.

When leopards are removed from an area, baboon numbers rapidly increase. Troop leaders are very tolerant of junior males whom they often allow to mate with females. Young cling for life (literally) onto the fur of the mother's underbelly, until they grow too big whereupon they ride jockey position on her back.

Baboons are very curious and learn fast. They often approach cars and habitations, in which case they soon become a nuisance if they are fed by the uneducated visitor.

They are unpredictable and aggressive, hence a risk to tourists. As they grow in confidence, they will try and steal everything and anything and if bad-tempered they can be very dangerous. A baboon can inflict a serious wound and can transmit several unpleasant diseases.

Baboons are ground dwellers and rarely climb trees. They prefer rocky knolls and hills in areas where woodland and open plains meet, although they often roam savannas, forests and bush. Baboons take an extremely wide range of food, such as grubs, spiders, scorpions, fruit, roots, insects and bird or reptile eggs.


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