‘Wahoo!’ ‘Wahoo!’ The characteristic 2-phase bark echoes across the valley, followed by squeals, screams, grunts and more barking announcing the arrival of Kalkheuvel’s hairy vagrants. The 26 strong troop of Chacma baboons have their home range over this area of dales, savanna, woodlands and cliffs. Here they forage about for a meal. They are omnivorous with the bulk of their diet including fruit, seeds, insects, bulbs and any small poor helpless bird or mammal that they can catch. Their troop is made up of females (usually all related to one another) and males from various troops (they usually emigrate to another troop after puberty at 6 to 7 years). There is a strong hierarchy in the troop for both sexes, with the large (unchivalrous) males being dominant over all the females. They breed throughout the year and females give birth to a single baby usually every second year, depending on environmental conditions.
They are an intensely social animal and by living in a troop there are many individual to keep vigilance against predators, but the troop size severely limits resources when foraging for food and this leads to individuals forming alliances. These alliances are formed and maintained by grooming each other and it is also the ‘glue’ which binds the troop together. When a troop gets too large (average size is 38) food resources become very limited causing a lot of fission in the group. Grooming alliances lead to cliques being formed (as there is not enough time to groom everyone and still look for food) and with constant fission the troop will eventually split along clique lines.
Baboons have various night-time roost across their home range consisting of large trees or cliff edges and will utilise various roosts depending on weather conditions or the closest one at nightfall. After much squabbling for the best roost, youngsters chasing each other, squeals and screams and the odd bark, the troop will finally settle down for the night.
(Kalkheuvel’s troop presently stands at about 26 animals: 6 large males; 7 females; 7 sub-adults and 6 youngsters including a cute little pink baby.)
Pictures by Jenny Hyde-Johnson , including "The Thinker" Kalkheuwel-style.