17 May 2009

Baboon Bits

Baboon species:

• They are grouped into only two species of which only one sub species of each is living;
• Theropithecus baboon. (Gelada is its only living species.)
• Papio baboon; also called the savannah. (Have five sub species but since they interbreed and give forth-fertile offspring, they are considered as one single species.)
• Yellow (papio cynocephalus cynocephalus)
• Olive (papio cynocephalus anubis)
• Guinea (papio cynocephalus papio)
• Chacma (papio cynocephalus ursinus)
• Hamadryas (papio cynocephalus hamadryas)
• Hamadryas are different from the rest in their appearance and behaviors, they are most northerly of the five species found in the arid scrublands and desert of Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and the coast of southern Arabia. They are smaller, light gray color coat and pink faces and bottom. Males have manes of longer hair around their head and shoulder and much longer than females.
• Olive: Found in Ethiopia, northern Tanzania and across West Africa. Adult males have large furry mane, have overhanging tips to their noses and they are very robust compared to the rest.
• Yellow: fond in Tanzania, Zambia, northern Mozambique and Angola. They are characterized by yellow coat, slender with long legs, overturned nose; males have mane furry hair around their heads.
• Chacma: through southern Africa, mid Zambia, to Cape Province of South Africa. They are dark in color, furry fringe of black hair around their neck and shoulder, males have cape of hair around their shoulders.
• Guinea: restricted distribution in West Africa.
• Gelada species is restricted distributed to the Simen Mountains of Ethiopia. Males have magnificent longer, silkier mane, both male and female have patches of bare skin on their chest-bright red color made them called “bleeding hearts baboon.”

Baboon Facts:

• They are the most widespread of all the savannah monkeys.
• They are adaptable, found in extremely cold and hot areas alike.
• They have a highly varied diet. They get food from above and below the ground. They feed on fruits, leaves, seeds, berries, flowers, roots, shoots, gum, insects, and meat in a diverse and discerning manner. They sometimes eat only a particular part of any food.
• Their ability to manipulate things with their hands and fingers suggest the reason why they have successfully colonized the savannah. They are found virtually in all parts of sub Sahara Africa.
• Adult males weigh an average of 22kg to 30kg and females- 12kg to 15kg.
• Females establish close relationship with their relatives that often last an entire lifetime.
• They sharpen their canine teeth by grinding them against a specially adapted tooth in the lower jaw. The sound of a male grinding teeth is a good indicator that fighting is about to break out.
• Baboons have extremely sharp vision; it’s their primary sense.
• They get safety in numbers; they forage and sleep together.
• They are inquisitive and very smart; forever investigating new things they come across in the environment. Youngsters and adult males are more adventurous than females who are more conservative.
• Infants sometimes use their mother’s tail as backrest when jockey riding on their mother’s back.
• They have shown ability to live alongside human and benefit from the association unlike many other animals.
• They can store food in special cheek pouches that lie just under the skin on either sides of the jaw. They push food into the insides of their cheeks and then eat it later.
• Baboons are adept at spotting clues that tell them that a tasty corm, bulb I lurking underground. Often, this clue is nothing more than a small shoot poking up from the ground.
• Depending with its size, the troop will move between 1 to 5 kilometers per day, but the bigger to troop, the longer its day’s journey. In scarce food, they move up to 9 to 10 kilometers a day.

Olkiramatian Baboon Project

By Joel Njonjo

Background information:

The Maasai tribe inhabits Olkiramatian group ranch. The group ranch is divided into three sections; the northwest fringe has potential for agriculture and has been set aside for farming, the eastern part of the group ranch is the widest with vast space for livestock and the Northeast part is blessed with vast plains and forest parches that are wet and green year round. Olkiramatian provides a home for many different animal and bird species including the Big Five (except rhinos). Other rare species and endangered species, like lesser kudus, are abundant. More than two hundred beautiful bird species have been reported within the conservation area.
The Maasai people have a rich culture that embraces the conservation of their natural resources. This is why they have been able to coexist with wild animals in their day-to-day lives up to the present time. Although human encroachment and increasing development exert high pressure on wildlife populations across Kenya, wildlife is still thriving in Maasai areas. Their culture contains measures that protect the environment; for instance, excessive poaching is prohibited since it’s believed that poachers will become unsuccessful outcasts. Tree conservation is an important characteristic: people may prune trees for a variety of uses, but may not cut down the whole tree.
In Maasai society, every animal species is viewed differently – generally depending on their size and benefits. Before the tourism era, they valued wildlife for food, ritual, and cultural functions. Killing a lion used to be seen as a sign of braveness and manhood. On the other hand, some animals are viewed to be of low or no benefit. These animals are neither used for cultural purposes nor subsistence purposes. Some of them come into conflict with people through crop-raiding or livestock predation. Baboons and hyenas fall in this category. Hyenas predate on livestock, and baboons raid crops and eat young goats and sheep. Hence, both species are perceived to be pests in the society.
Baboons are among the world’s best survivors and are adept in changing diet and introducing new foods when resources are scarce. Their flexibility occasionally leads to conflict with people, especially where there is competition over wild fruits, water and livestock fodder during dry seasons, leading to a negative perception in the community. Resource competition intensifies as the drought continues and baboons introduce meat as their supplement source of food.

Project introduction:

Dr. Shirley Strum, Director of Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project, Debbie Nightingale of Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project and John Kamanga, the Olkiramatian Group Ranch Chairman and SORALO coordinator, introduced the idea of baboon habituation for research and eco-tourism to the Olkiramatian community in the year 2005. They proposed the idea as a way of adding value to the existing eco-tourism project in Sampu Tented Camp. They also wanted to create job opportunities for the locals and to support different development programs in Olkiramatian.
In addition, the community will benefit through the project by learning baboon ranging patterns and learning when and where they attack their livestock. This will help the community develop non-lethal approaches to reducing human-baboon conflict.

Project aim:

The project aims to habituate a baboon troop for use in a “Walking with Baboons” eco tourism project in Olkiramatian Group Ranch. This is a unique opportunity to walk within a troop of baboons while learning about the environment, vegetation types, and Maasai culture. Visitors learn how the Maasai, livestock and wild animals collectively and sustainably use natural resources.

Project packages-activities:

The project gives its clients a chance to walk with wild baboons with a Maasai guide, and watch them at a close range while they continue with their daily activities. The guide knows each individual baboon, and will answer questions about baboons, Maasai culture, livestock and vegetation.

SORALO@ACC.OR.KE OR 254-20-891360
+254 722 545 285
+254 737 545 285