Africa – Misunderstanding Wild Baboons

A Researcher working in Uganda contacted me some time ago to ask if I could help her understand what was happening to the villagers in her area who had reported that the women were being “sexually harassed” by a troop of baboons. These “attacks” occurred when the women headed towards the river to do their daily clothes washing.

I asked if anyone had threatened the baboons, or perhaps walked too close to an infant? She answered that the baboon threats were totally unprovoked by the women and they feared they would be “raped”.

Baboons do not rape or sexually harass human women.

Bewildered by this story, I questioned the researcher further.

“Were there any men around when these women were threatened by the baboons?”, I asked.
The answer to that was “yes”.

The men were threatening the baboons due to a fear of them harming the women.

The behaviour described above is a clear cut case of redirected aggression. The baboons were threatening the women because –  in their eyes –  women are lower ranking hence it is safer to threaten a woman who is connected to a hostile man than threaten the man himself.

This is common behaviour among wild primates. If an adult human man attacks or strongly threatens a male baboon who feels he has to respond, and there happens to be a woman close by, the baboon will threaten the woman.

As far as baboons sexually harassing humans is concerned, it appears that a certain amount of projection was involved in understanding the behaviour of these baboons.

The solution to a problem like this would be for the men and women to ignore the baboons, act passively and be respectful of their troop and territory.

To harmoniously co-exist with wild primates, it requires us to practice tolerance and patience. We need to take the time to understand their language so we can correctly interpret the behaviour that scares us.

Testosterone is Trouble

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Re-directed Aggression – The Primate Way

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TAU – THE SURVIVOR:

A young baboon of 3 years old has been confirmed to be shot by a high calibre fire arm after being treated by local vet Magdalena Braum of Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre. The bullet entered from the back of the shoulder, shattered the bone, then entered and exited his opposite hand.

The baboon had managed to keep up with his troop for about ten days in spite of his agonizing, extensive injuries until Thursday morning, the 10th of October when he stayed alone in the forest while his companions left for their daily foraging route.

Around 10 am, the wild baboons arrived at the Darwin Primate Group. My concern magnified as I imagined him dying alone – either slowly or with the aid of a predator –  somewhere in the vast forest that surrounds us.  Thankfully, my cell phone rang as this thought crossed my mind; Sharon Armour who lives on a nearby farm had read about the case online and had noticed the injured baboon outside her home.

Without this fortunate twist of events, he may never have received the help he needed.

I found him weakened –  hidden in thick bush –  when he called for his troop, then sat with him for nearly an hour while we waited for assistance from Jared Harding and Magdalena Braum who kindly took off some time from their demanding work schedule to ensure the juvenile survived.

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Photo: Jared Harding

Ex-rays showed that  a bullet had penetrated the baboon’s hand, then journeyed in and out of the opposite shoulder, shattering the bone. This is the fourth high profile victim from our wild, resident baboon troop since June 2013

The question that strikes me is; does this point to an act of redirected aggression by a human primate or is it mere “co-incidence”?

Re-directed aggression is practiced commonly amongst indigenous wild primates. Human primates however are reputedly capable of controlling their primal drives as a result of being “civilised” and “humanised”.

DOUG, MATT AND PACINO – MISSING IN ACTION:

Almost a month has passed since I last saw adult male of the wild troop – Pacino – who became well known and loved for his numerous adventures in The Crags, Western Cape. Pacino and Bud had settled into a mutual friendship with Pacino finally accepting Bud’s alpha status after many months of conflict. Although there is a slight chance that Pacino had decided to disperse, the dynamics of this troop had shown no sign of that being an option.(https://darwinprimategroup.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/pacino-life-of-a-dispersing-male/)

Pacino had sought out help for various injuries at the Darwin Primate Group on numerous occasions during the years. And because this troop are persecuted by residents in the area, they have come to regard the DPG as a safe haven to visit at times of need.

Some of Pacino‘s injuries that we helped him survive during the last year:

1beae-pacsnarenovPacino with a snare around his neck outside my home. 

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Pacino undergoes a three hour operation after suffering injuries to his arm during a fight with alpha male, Bud.

ae62d-pachomesnarePacino leaves the trap once we return home from the vet.

1044108_609666599053025_1659545364_nPacino lying down at the DPG in obvious pain after his ribs were pierced during a fight with Bud.

998356_615653365121015_1037058337_nPacino recovers for a week at Tenikwa after Dr Braum treats his injuries.

1094506_10201626220958813_1808801371_oBud showing off his weapons

Pacino’s mysterious disappearance – during September 2013 – followed his close friend – Matt’s – alleged death. We were notified by a witness that Matt had been shot while running across a field. He was accompanied by Pacino at the time. Matt’s disappearance occurred soon after  we publicized the brutal killing of his closest friend Doug who had died in an unspeakably cruel manner during June 2013.  Doug had been lured into a chicken cage, stabbed to death with sticks and then eaten according to witness reports.

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Photo: Anna Wood

Adorable Matt poses for volunteer, Anna Wood. June, 2013.

Since May 2012, when an article appeared in the Huffington Post after   local police had been approached about the regular gun shots fired by neighbors, the Darwin Primate Group has been the target of anti-baboon residents in the area as can be seen in this blog: https://darwinprimategroup.wordpress.com/farmers-vs-wildlife/

On the 8th October, soon after I arrived home, the wild troop of baboons slowly made their way onto the property..

I quickly scanned the familiar faces to check everyone was okay. Ah-ah-ah-ahah!! An unmistakable anxiety-ridden voice expressing intense physical pain was coming from the bush.  A young juvenile looked straight at me from behind a rotting yellow wood.

I crept closer, anticipating yet another injury.

Uncharacteristically, he lifted himself on to his back legs and moved off –  upright – with one arm swinging in an uncontrolled manner.

I followed until he sat down, he looked at me crying, his eyes pleading. oct8

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Creeping closer, I noticed that one hand appeared to be shattered. The wound on the opposite shoulder was bloodied and hard to see clearly.

Lying down on the ground in a futile attempt to get closer, I called Tenikwa Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre who kindly sent their vet – Dr Magdalena Braum –  to dart the suffering juvenile. But when Dr Braum arrived the baboons, recognising the dart gun, moved off into deep forest.

We followed for some hours, then were forced to accept the young juvenile had no intention of leaving the safety of thick foliage. Hoping he would arrive the next day, and agreeing to be on call, Dr Braum left.

Relieved to see my young friend the following day sitting right outside my home, I lay down a few metres away on the grass and tried to reassure him while he once again expressed the pain he felt. This time I was close enough to recognise him as one of the juvenile males I’d named Tau. Having witnessed quite a few of the individuals in this troop come to us for help through the years, after being injured, it certainly seemed as if Tau was asking the same.houseTau arrives with the troop – 9th October, 2013oct9Tau exhibiting a facial expression and vocalisation I have come to associate with extreme pain.

Using various baboon strategies to convey my loyalty, while deterring other baboons away from us, he slowly began to visibly relax. He even shifted closer then lay  in front of me where I could get a clear view of both the hand and shoulder wounds. 9 octJust as I’d decided to call Magdalena the vet, the troop moved on, slipping one by one into the forest. Hours later, I could still hear their voices in the distance and assumed they would be sleeping close by for the night. I spent that night periodically waking up wondering how he was coping, wondering if he was capable of sitting with his allies in a high tree, if that was where they were sleeping for this night. After all, he no longer had the use of his hands…….himTau – innocent juvenile with his whole life ahead of him before his destiny was permanently altered by a gun toting neighbor.

Cross-Species Relationships – Darwin Primate Group

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The Harmonious Relationship Between Dogs, Chickens, Rehabilitated orphaned monkeys and Wild Baboons. For seven years, these wild baboons did not ever attempt to harm a chicken, free-roaming rescue monkey, cat or dog at the Darwin Primate Group. (The huskies in this video were rescued to save them from being euthanased by their people, and due to their high prey drive were a severe risk to small mammals.)

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CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:

Farmers vs Wildlife – the Plight of SA Primates

Farmers vs Wildlife and the Plight of SA Primates

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Paintings by Karin Saks - B.A.F.A.

LINK TO PRESENTATION – CLICK BELOW:

Harmonious Co-existence between Humans and Baboons/Monkeys

We’ve altered their lives drastically by encroaching on their territory. We’ve destroyed habitats and have severely damaged troop structures.

This presentation (click on the link above) is for residents who would like to co-exist peacefully with the baboons and/or monkeys around their homes.My neighboring baboons - BEHAVIOUR and power struggles.

Darwin Primate Group

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The Darwin Primate Group is a registered non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation of South African primate species. There are nine provinces in SA with each province being governed by independent laws. Because the DPG is the only official primate rescue centre in the Western Cape in SA, our work is crucial to ensure a healthy future for the indigenous primates in this province.

We work towards a harmonious co-existence between residents and wild primates through distributing educational material, public talks and liasing with the public. An aspect of this involves anti-poaching patrols and educating local children in informal entertaining ways.

Our programs include working towards more protective legislation for wild indigenous primates,the rescue and rehabilitation of monkeys and research into wild baboons and monkey troops to find out the impact of human intervention and behavioural aspects that will contribute to knowledge about the most appropriate rehabilitation processes – habitats, natural food sources, behaviour etc.

 

The Primate Mirror – Seeing Beyond Our Preconceived Human Socialisation

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Love At First Sight

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
― Frederick Buechne

P.S. It is not advisable to ever invite a baboon to sit on your lap as illustrated in the photo of myself with Boffin the baboon. The context behind the photo above relates to myself as rehabilitator; mother to a baby baboon who I was releasing into a wild troop of baboons.