Chacma Baboon

Chacma Baboon

Cape baboon

Papio ursinus
Population size
Life Span
40 yrs
45 km/h
12-45 kg
50-115 cm

The Chacma baboon has a dog-like face and large, notable canine teeth. These monkey have large skull and narrow, constricted face. The tail is bent and the upper face is flexed downwards. The canines of males are much larger that these of females. The skin color of their face is purple-black. Their pelage consists of black hairs with a yellow-brown strip combined with light hairs with a black tip. Their back is covered with dark-brown to black fur while hands and feet are black. The fur on the under-parts and sides of the muzzle is lighter in color.


The area of their distribution covers the greater part of southern Africa. They live in diverse habitats from woodlands to savanna, steppes and sub-desert. Chacma baboons are found in Kalahari Desert as well as on alpine slopes of the Drakensberg. They usually sleep on hills, cliffs or large trees. During the day, these primates avoid arid areas with lack of water.

Chacma Baboon habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These monkeys are diurnal, spending most of the day on the ground. They are highly sociable animals, living in troops, which consist of 20-80 individuals. The troops include males as well as females with their young. Members of a troop are in close ties with each other, sleeping, feeding and grooming together. During the day the groups split into smaller subgroups, consisting of 4-5 females with their young and a dominant male, who leads the group and defends it from other males. They are always on the alert, living in troops for protection and watching for predators. When threatened, the baboons give out loud barks. Then the males run to attack while the females and young hide in a safe place among the trees.

Diet and Nutrition

These monkeys are omnivores, feeding upon various species of both plant matter and animals. The Chacma baboons consume grass, flowers, leaves, crowns of some trees such as Cypress tree, seeds such as ones of Acacia nigrens, roots, tree gums, water lilies, tubers, corms and rhizomes. Their usual diet includes also fruits such as figs or Kigelia pinnata fruit. In addition, they eat eggs, insects and small vertebrates.

Mating Habits

6 months
1 infant
8-12 months

These primates have polygynandrous mating system. The dominant male of a subgroup competes with other males for mating right, though females of baboons mate with a number of males during their lives. They breed at any time of the year. The gestation period lasts about six months, yielding a single baby. The newborn infant clings onto its mother’s breast, grabbing onto her fur and later rides on her back. The baby is weaned at the age of 8-12 months. The Chacma baboons reach sexual maturity between 4 and 8 years of age. By this time, females keep on living within the troop while males usually join another troop. Males reach sexual maturity at 5 years old whereas females are mature at 3 years old.


Population threats

The major threats to the Chacma baboon population include hunting and involvement of the species in laboratory research. These primates are shot as vermin due to raiding crops, damaging pine plantations and preying on livestock. When obtaining food from humans, some baboons can be very aggressive and are frequently killed as "problem animals".

Population number

In the IUCN Red List, the Chacma baboon is classified as Least Concern (LC). These animals are common and widely distributed over the area of their habitat but no overall population estimate is available. The species is not endangered and the overall population is stable.

Ecological niche

These primates form an important link in the food web of their habitat. Thus, they obtain nutrients from plants and animals they feed upon. Then they become prey species for predators of the area, making the nutrients available to these animals. Chacma baboons dig for roots, tubers, corms and rhizomes, helping to aerate the soil of the area. In addition, it's quite possible that they disperse seeds of plant species they consume.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The baboons have the habit of turning over stones in search of suitable food, so it's quite easy to tell where a troop has been foraging.
  • These primates spend time grooming each other, which strengthens their position in the troop.
  • They communicate by vocalizations, using about 30 different sounds such as grunting, barking or screaming. They also use gestures such as shoulder shrugs, yawns or lip smacking.
  • As it comes to food and water, they rely on each other. Every member of a baboon family or group takes part in the search of water and food. These monkeys have cheek pouches where they store food.
  • The baboon infants like to spend time playing with each other high in the trees.
  • These primates are able to travel by walk more than 4 miles between sunrise and sunset, stopping only in order to hide from the midday sun in the shade.


1. Chacma Baboon Wikipedia article -
2. Chacma Baboon on The IUCN Red List site -

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