Violence amongst baboons is the failure of aggression/ intimidation to work. (Sketch by Karin Saks)
Sadly, all too often, a baboon or monkey will get killed simply for using intimidation to ask for food. Our fear, lack of understanding and impulsiveness is behind many a primate death. I have heard residents comparing having a baboon enter their home with having a leopard visit. But there is no comparison.
1. Baboons are not predators and do not eat humans. Their relationship to the human residents who have encroached on their wild territories is akin to their relationship with another primate species with whom they are competing for resources. A good example is the vervet/baboon relationship.
2. It is common to assume that these primates have a natural fear of humans in much the same way that a species unrelated (like a wild cat for example) would. Wild primates see us as another monkey species who share an ability to co-exist under the right circumstances. They are not born with a natural fear of humans (as killers) but learn to fear humans through interacting with them over time. Hence, if all they saw was kindness, this would result in a lack of fear). They have a system of social reciprocity among members of the troop. This system extends to all the wildlife that they share a territory with and results in either a competitive relationship between enemies (predator/prey) or an understanding between competitors for natural resources. They relate to their human neighbors, as well as all the domestic animals linked to them, in a similar fashion.
When we utilise this system of reciprocity – by demonstrating respect and accepting it in return – it allows us to co-exist harmoniously with our wild primate neighbors.