Let me start by saying that I do not like these guys. At all. They’re ugly and scary and huge. The first time I saw one in Mokolodi, just after getting here, my brain was still in Montana mode and I thought I was looking at a black bear. I don’t like monkeys, but I’d take them any day over a baboon.
There is a large troop just south of town and we saw them often on our travels. They cause a lot of problems at campsites, where they can steal food from inside trucks and wreak havoc on ablution blocks. They can also be aggressive. A small boy in Botswana was hospitalized a while back because he was bit by one when he wouldn’t give them his lunch on his way to school. A former Fulbrighter I know, in Namibia, watched one walk into his house, open the fridge, take out a banana, peel and eat it, leave the peel on the counter, and walk out. He started keeping an ax handle around to threaten them with.
Baboons are described as “very large monkeys with long, equally developed limbs” who forage during the day and rest on cliffs or trees at night. Audubon calls them “dog-headed” with close set eyes under prominent brows.
In Botswana we see the Chacma baboon, the largest of the five baboon species. They live in troops of seven to 200, which are aggregations of smaller family groups. High-ranking males mate first, but lower-ranking males can secure mates by aligning themselves with female groups and protecting them and their young. Audubon says that females often prefer these “friends” as mates.
Our friend Dina from Road Beneath Our Feet loves them, pointing out that no one pays attention to them so they can move and be in freedom. She has a point. But I still don’t like them.