The strong and robust Hamadryas baboons belong to Old World monkeys. They are highly intelligent animals. Mature males of this species are identified by their silver manes and pink faces. In Ancient Egypt, they were considered representatives of the Egyptian god of learning. Hence, they are otherwise known as Secret baboons. Nowadays, these animals are extinct from Egypt and are currently found in Ethiopia, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The Hamadryas baboons have the northernmost natural range of all baboons. These primates are known to form large troops of several hundred individuals.
These primates are found from the Red Sea in Eritrea to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia as well as Yemen and Saudi Arabia in southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula. Preferred types of habitat are sub-deserts, steppes, alpine grass meadows, plains and short-grass savannahs. The Hamadryas baboons always remain close to water. Hence, during the wet season, some populations move to mountain areas.
Habits and lifestyle
The Hamadryas baboons lead diurnal lifestyle, being active by day and sleeping by night. Although they are generally terrestrial, they prefer sleeping in trees or cliffs. The multi-level social system of these primates is rather complex: the Hamadryas baboons form so-called one male units (OMUs), consisting of 1 - 9 females and their young that are aggressively herded, controlled and guided by a single leading male. Usually, females of an OMU compete to groom and stay close to the leading male. On the other hand, leading males of various OMUs are often related. They closely associate, gathering into social units known as 'clans'. Each group also contains a subordinate, "follower" male, which is typically related to the dominant male. Group members engage in collective activities such as sleeping, travelling and foraging. Several OMUs occasionally form bands - groups of 30 - 90 individuals. Multiple such bands, in turn, may sleep in the same area, forming troops - aggregations of up to several hundred Hamadryas baboons.
troop, flange, congress
Diet and nutrition
As an omnivore, the Hamadryas baboon consumes food of both animal and plant origin such as fruits, tree gums, acacia seeds, acacia flowers, seeds, grass, rhizomes, corms, roots, tubers as well as small vertebrates, insects and eggs.
These primates have a polygynous mating system. The dominant male of an OMU mates with the females of the group. Hamadryas baboons don't have a breeding mating season. Instead, they breed year-round with peak a period, occurring in May-July. Meanwhile, the population in Ethiopia typically breeds in November-December. Females produce offspring at intervals of 15 - 24 months. Gestation period lasts for 170 - 173 days, yielding one infant, which remains with its mother for the first few months of its life. The weaning process takes about 9 months, lasting from 6 to 15 months old. The Hamadryas baboons are independent at around 2 years old, after which males continue living with their natal clan, whereas females often move between clans and bands. The age of reproductive maturity is 4 - 6 years old in males and 4 years old in females.
Year-round, the peak in May-July
The Hamadryas baboons are locally hunted for their skin and trapped for medical research. These animals are also killed as pests due to destructing crops. In some parts of their range, these primates suffer from loss of their natural habitat and come into serious conflict with humans as a result of overgrazing, agricultural development and irrigation projects.
According to IUCN, the Hamadryas baboon is abundant and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, in Djibouti, its total population is estimated to be around 2,000 animals. Overall, Hamadryas baboons are classified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers are increasing today.
On one hand, due to their habit of digging for tubers, roots, rhizomes and corms, Hamadryas baboons probably contribute to the soil aeration within their range. On the other hand, they may act as important seed dispersers of plants that they consume. Additionally, these primates form an irreplaceable link in the food chain of their habitat: by feeding upon various plants and animals, they get certain nutrients that later become available to larger animals, which feed upon Hamadryas baboons.
Fun facts for kids
- When threatened, males of this species usually 'yawn', exposing their canine teeth that are up to 4 cm in length.
- Grooming is an important part of their lives, enhancing relationships between members of the community. Meanwhile, less dominant individuals take greater part in this activity.
- The Hamadryas baboons used to play a significant role in art and folklore of the Ancient Egypt.
- In ancient times, these primates were revered to the extent that some individuals had been mummified after their death.
- In ancient Egypt, the Hamadryas baboons were considered representatives of the god of learning, Thoth.
- These animals were commonly kept as pets by royalty of the ancient Egypt.
- The Hamadryas Baboons largely rely on body language to communicate with conspecifics. Gestures such as staring, smiling, and head-bobbing serve as threat displays, whereas nose-touching and lip smacking show friendly attitude.
- Male Hamadryas baboons make a dog-like bark, when there are predators nearby.