Hamadryas Baboons are active and intelligent primates that have captivated Melbourne Zoo visitors since 1948. Their custom-built enclosure recreates the environment of the north-east African savannah, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the complex social world of a baboon troop.
Although once hunted for their skins and used in large numbers in medical research, this species is not under threat; in fact the wild population is thought to be increasing. However, in some areas, the spread of agriculture and drought is putting pressure on some groups of baboons. Northern Kenya is facing its worst drought in six decades leaving people, livestock and wildlife desperately competing for survival.
In response to this environmental catastrophe, Zoos Victoria has created a campaign named Beads for Wildlife. Melbourne Zoo sells beautiful hand-crafted beadwork created by women in the Melako Community Conservancy. In these times of extreme drought, beadwork creates a sustainable alternative livelihood for families, reducing their impact on natural resources and wildlife such as our baboons
Each baboon has a unique role to play within the extended family and their place in the group is reinforced through constant and often quite subtle social interactions.
Aggressive and submissive displays of behaviour help to define each individual’s position in the social hierarchy.
They are probably best known for their prominent pink posteriors, which are an important visual communication cue. The enlarged, bright rear of the male defines him as the dominate animal within the harem. The female’s bottom becomes swollen when ovulating to draw the attention of the dominant male, and to let him know she is receptive to mating.
Grooming is also an important behaviour for baboons. It enables dirt and parasites to be removed and helps to strengthen the social bonds within the group.
- When foraging and sleeping, baboons come together in troops of up to 400 individuals
- Baboons live in a multi-level society. A ‘band’ is made up of several ‘clans’, which in turn comprise two or more ‘harems’
- Within each ‘clan’ there will be one or two dominant males, each of which guards some of the females of the clan: his own ‘harem’
- Females reach sexual maturity by four years of age
- Baboons are omnivores; they eat both meat and vegetables. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat nearly anything they can find