Dangerous Game: Baboon


Words & Pictures by Bryan Havemann

The Battle- ready Bush Brigade

The Lowland Mountain Gorilla is the animal most people associate with Rwanda in Central Africa. These lovable primates were brought to the world’s attention by the eccentric researcher, Dr Dianne Fossey, who did pioneering work on the gorillas in the Virunga Mountain complex in the northern part of the country. The Akagera National Park lies on the border of Tanzania in the east, and is managed by African Parks on behalf of the Rwandan Government through a partnership with the Rwandan Development Board. This savannah park is very different to the rain forest where the gorillas are found, and the primate that reigns supreme in Akagera is the olive baboon.

In Africa, five species of baboon are found. These are the olive baboon, found in the north-central African savannah; the western, red, or Guinea baboon, found in the far western Africa; the hamadryas baboon, found in the Horn of Africa; the yellow baboon, found in southcentral and eastern Africa; and the chacma baboon, found in southern Africa. Like other baboons in Africa, the olive baboon has a dog-like muzzle − from a distance, running baboons have often been mistaken for feral dogs.

The baboon has a distinct, loud bark, and a range of vocalisations ranging from a soft grunt to an ear-piercing scream. The tail has a kink in it which helps the baboon to maintain balance when climbing. Baboon males can weigh up to 50kg, but this is the exception rather than the rule. The average weight of males is 24kg, and the females weigh around 15kg. The olive and chacma baboons are among the largest in Africa, with the head-and-body length ranging from 50 to 114cm.

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