Baboons are the most widespread primate in Africa. Recognized for their ability to adapt, baboons can be found in a variety of habitats. For example, some have been found semi-desert to rainforest, and from coastal areas to mountains. Their adaptableness also extends to their feeding habits, baboons will eat just about anything. Baboons diet includes a wide variety of plants, which they eat every part: the leaves, the fruit, the buds, the flowers, the roots, the bulbs, the tubers, the seeds, the shoots, the bark and even the sap. As for meat, these resourceful monkeys will eat insects, shellfish, small reptiles and amphibians, rodents, birds, fish, eggs and even young antelope or livestock.
Several kinds of baboons live in Africa and southwestern Arabia. These include the Hamadryas baboon, which lives on plains and rocky hills of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and eastern Africa near the Red Sea, and the Chacma baboon, which dwells on rocky regions and open woodlands in southern Africa. Olive baboons inhabit the Kekopey cattle ranch located near the town of Gilgil, Kenya. The central part of the ranch consists of open grassland studded with occasional patches of bushy shrub, scattered thorn bush, and small groves of giant fever trees. (S.C. Strum. 1987)They eat a wide variety of foods including insects, flowers, leaves, fruits of bushes and herbs, and most significant of all, the grass itself. Baboons eat the green blades of grass during the rainy seasons and dig for corms (the underground storage organ of sedge grasses) when the ranch is dry. They can carry food in pouches inside their cheeks.
Some of the most vicious predators that the baboon have are the large carnivores such as cheetahs and leopards. The Baboon live mostly on the ground but sleep in such places as trees or cliffs (S.C. Strum. 1987). Throughout Africa baboons achieve some protection from nocturnal predators by sleeping in tall trees or on cliffs. Usually each troop sleeps on a different cliff, but occasionally two troops will share a single sleeping site. In addition to the predators previously mentioned, baboons share their range with antelope as well as other large mammals including zebra, warthog, jackals, and African buffalo (S.C. Strum, D. Lindburg, and D. Hamburg 1999).
Primates have a number of characteristic physical features, but not every primate has each of these features. Nearly all kinds of primates, including baboons can grasp objects with their hands and feet. They have nails, rather than claws, on at least some of their fingers and toes. Vision is probably a primates most important sense. Most primates have well-developed eyesight and stereoscopic vision (the ability to judge depth). The eyes are on the front rather than the sides of the head. Other primate features include similar skeletal and dental structures(S.C. Strum, D. Lindburg, and D. Hamburg 1999).The physical features of primates are basically suited for a tree-dwelling life. For example, the ability to grasp objects helps in climbing and traveling through trees.
Just about all baboons have cheek pouches, enabling them to eat and run. Baboon ears and faces are naked. A baboon has a large head and long, sharp canine teeth, and a muzzle much like that of a dog. A baboons arms are about as long as its legs. Some baboons have short, stumpy tails, but others have tails more than 2 feet long. Male baboons are much larger than the females and have longer canine teeth. Some female baboons weigh as little as 24 pounds. A male baboon may weigh 90 pounds. Body lengths range between 50-60cm. and heavier, with the olive and yellow being the largest. (Cheney L, Dorothy. Seyearth M, Robert. 2007)
Baboons fur is dense and their coloring slightly varies, though most coats contain gray or brown. Olive baboons have a greenish olive coat; yellow baboons are yellowish brown; guinea baboons are reddish brown; chacmas range from yellowish gray to almost black (S.C. Strum. 1987).
Baboons are sexually dimorphic in size and appearance, with males being larger, often twice as large, and having a more distinctive appearance. Males often have manes and capes of hair around their shoulders. This is especially pronounced in the hamadryads subspecies. This added coat enhances the males appearance, making them seem even larger (S.C. Strum. 1987).
Baboons can adapt their behavior to many different kinds of environment without having to change much of their basic anatomy. (Stewart, Melissa, 2002) Olive baboons live in medium to large groups with multiple males and females. The group functions as a cohesive unit organized around a core of related females. Females usually remain in their natal groups throughout their lives, while males transfer to other groups at around the time of sexual maturity. (Stewart, Melissa, 2002) Females maintain close bonds with maternal relatives.
Adult females form linear dominance hierarchies, which remain relatively stable for considerable lengths of time. Relationships among males are usually more aggressive than those among females, perhaps because most males in a group are unrelated and because male reproductive success is largely determined by competition for females. (Stewart, Melissa, 2002) The outcome of male competition is a dominance hierarchy, determined by fighting ability, age and size.
Humans made a major impact on the environment of the baboons of the Kekopey cattle ranch. In 1978, the ranch was sold to an agricultural cooperative and humans started planting crops. From the baboons point of view, the newly planted maize and beans were simply additional food resources for them to exploit in their traditional home. We knew that crop raiding was a new behavior for baboons. The baboons didnt need the crops to survive. The crops represent a very large and very high-quality food compared to grass blades, roots of herbs, small berries and other items in a baboons natural diet. Farmers tried to put up fences to keep the baboons away from the crops. The farmers quickly realize that the fences were no barrier to animals that can jump, climb, dig and pull apart; even electric fences can be outsmarted.