This kind of primate belongs to the papio Anubis species which is why they are sometimes referred to as the Anubis baboons. It is the commonest species and it can be found in 25 countries on the African continent only. There are 2 species that are commonly seen in East Africa, these Anubis and the yellow ones which fortunately you will have a chance to see on your Uganda Safari. They are mainly ground dwellers, very intelligent and also crafty.
Where in Uganda to find them
Baboons prefer staying in the savanna and woodland kind of vegetation. They easily adapt to climatic changes and their main concern when choosing a home is the availability of water source in the area from where they can drink because they drink a lot of water every day although they can also survive on dew that they leak off their fur every morning. They also chose a home depending on how safe they feel the place is for them to sleep in therefore there should be the tall trees or rock cliff faces. In Uganda, the best places you will find these primates include;
Kibale national park, there are hundreds of these primates living in this park, they are often seen during the chimpanzee trek. Researchers often use groups from this park to carry out their studies for instance the 2009-11 study that was done on their feeding habits.
Budongo forest is another place where you will find groups of olive baboons. Like in Kibale, they are seen during the chimpanzee trek but you can also see them alongside the road that goes through since they are like monkeys and are not so afraid of getting close to humans.
Large groups of these baboons are very popular in the Busitema forest in Eastern Uganda long the route to Tororo. Large groups can be spotted alongside the main road in this area.
There are also lots of olive baboons living in famous Bwindi impenetrable forest, in the Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth Park, in Semliki national park’s Ituri forest, in Maramagambo forest and in many more other places. A forest walk during your Uganda safari to any of these places will give you a perfect opportunity to see these baboons.
How they live and feed
They live in groups of between 15 to 150 members and they do everything including feeding, socializing, travelling from one place to another as a group, even when it’s time to go to sleep, they go as a group which is good for their own safety from their predators. Almost every group has 7 or more males and the number of female is often twice as much and then their little one. Many groups have juveniles too and much as they do define their home range, there are no territorial borders which is why in most case one group may overlap with another’s range but they makes sure to avoid ever meeting one each other.
They are usually out of their homes latest by 8 in the morning. Once they are down on the ground, the grown-ups call a small meeting while the little ones are playing and during this meeting; the adults come to an understanding on where they will be heading to hunt for food. They make a unified unit and walk in off in column of two sometimes three to go feed.
Most of the time, they graze like any other animal. Baboons feed as they move and in a day, they can cover a distance of 5 to 6 miles, utilizing at least the first 3 hours of the morning before its gets really hot. They again feed in the afternoon and by 6 pm, they are ready to get back to the sleeping posts. They have time set aside for mutual grooming and this helps them bond amongst themselves. Such a time is also for cleaning up so that they stay safe from all external parasites which might cause infections.
When they are feeding, they are very selective of what they eat. They feed on fresh leaves, pods, seeds, roots, berries and blossoms from different plants. Besides plants, they feed on small insects, they take some meat though in small quantity and in this case, they feed on animals like the little antelopes, the vervet monkeys, some birds, the fish, also the shellfish as well as hares.
Gestation period and life span
Baboons can weigh up to about 45 kg/100 pounds and have a life span of about 20-30 years. At 7 or 8 years, the female is mature enough for reproduction while the males are considered grown up at 7 to 10years. When the female ovulates, it’s a sign that its ready to mates and the signs are quite similar to those of domestic animals. While it will attract many males, a single female will dominant and will form a consort-ship with such a female, protect it from any other male during that time.
Baby baboons stay alongside their mothers in the first month after birth, mothers carry their babies next to the stomach supporting it with one arm. When they turn 5 or 6 weeks, they are strong enough to ride on the mothers’ backs and at 4 to 6 months, they start spending time with other infants playing.
When a male baboon grows up, it leaves its parents’ troops, may move in and out of different troops until it finds where it’s comfortable. Males slowly get accepted into new troops and it’s usually by cohabiting. The males often help to protect the females as well as the little ones from fights and predators.
Their biggest predators are humans who easily kill and injure them. When they detect a threat, baboons can easily escape through the undergrowth. Males can easily confront other predators their like leopards or the cheetahs by lining and then strutting in a threatening way and then start screaming. Baboons can mean to be very fierce fighters when it’s needed and they communicate with each other very well to ensure a good fight.
To communicate, they use facial expressions like lipmaking, adult males do roar-grunt and when they see birds flying low or people, they cough-bark and cough-geck. However when it’s predators or neighboring baboon groups are spotted or baboons are distressed, they make a wa-hoo call. There are several other ways they communication and this helps them stay safe.