Yellow Baboon
Papio cynocephalus
Population size
Life Span
20-30 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus ) is a baboon in the family of Old World monkeys. The species epithet means "dog-head" in Greek, due to the dog-like shape of the muzzle and head. Yellow baboons have slim bodies with long arms and legs, and yellowish-brown hair. They resemble the Chacma baboon, but are somewhat smaller and with a less elongated muzzle. Their hairless faces are black, framed with white sideburns. Males can grow to about 84 cm, females to about 60 cm. They have long tails which grow to be nearly as long as their bodies. The average life span of the yellow baboon in the wild is roughly 15–20 years; some may live up to 30 years.

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Yellow baboons inhabit savannas and light forests in eastern Africa, from Kenya and Tanzania to Zimbabwe and Botswana. They are diurnal, terrestrial, and live in complex, mixed-gender social groups of 8 to 200 individuals per troop. Like all other baboon species, they are omnivorous, with a preference for fruits; they also eat plants, leaves, seeds, grasses, bulbs, bark, blossoms and fungi, as well as worms, grubs, insects, spiders, scorpions, birds, rodents and small mammals. All species of baboons are highly opportunistic feeders and will eat virtually any food they can find.

Yellow baboons use at least ten different vocalizations to communicate. When traveling as a group, males will lead, females and young stay safely in the middle, and less-dominant males bring up the rear. A baboon group's hierarchy is a serious matter, and some subspecies have developed behaviors intended to avoid confrontation and retaliation. For example, males may use infants as a kind of "passport" or shield for safe approach toward another male. One male will pick up the infant and hold it up as it nears the other male. This action often calms the other male and allows the first male to approach safely.

Baboons are important in their ecosystem, not only serving as food for larger predators, but also dispersing seeds in their waste and through their messy foraging habits. They are also efficient predators of smaller animals and their young, keeping some animals' populations in check.

Baboons have been able to fill a variety of ecological niches, including places inhospitable to other animals, such as regions taken over by human settlement. Thus, they are one of the most successful African primates and are not listed as threatened or endangered. However, the same behavioral adaptations that make them so successful also cause them to be considered pests by humans in many areas. Raids on farmers' crops and livestock and other such intrusions into human settlements have made most baboons species subject to many organized extermination projects. However, continued habitat loss forces more and more baboons to migrate toward areas of human settlement.

The three subspecies of the yellow baboon are:

  • Papio cynocephalus cynocephalus (typical yellow baboon)
  • Papio cynocephalus ibeanus ( Ibean baboon)
  • Papio cynocephalus kindae ( Kinda baboon)

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As the common name suggests, the Yellow baboon exhibits a yellow-brown overall coloration with a white underside. The scientific name of this primate is “cyanocephalus”, which is a combination of Greek words “kynos” (dog) and “kephalikos” (head). The animal is so called due to its conspicuously long muzzle. The Yellow baboon is also distinguished by the noticeable brow ridge as well as fine, yellow-grey hairs, covering the dark skin of the face.



The natural range of this species covers central and eastern regions of Africa, stretching from Kenya and Tanzania to Zimbabwe and Botswana. Within this territory, the Yellow baboon occurs in thorn scrubs, savannahs, open woodlands and gallery forests.

Yellow Baboon habitat map
Yellow Baboon habitat map
Yellow Baboon
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Habits and Lifestyle

Yellow baboons are generally ground-dwelling primates, moving around on all four. The social system of these animals consists of multi-male, multi-female troops. Group members share a lot of activities such as sleeping, looking for food and travelling together. Individuals of both sexes live in separate social hierarchy systems. Usually, the highest ranking animals make use of larger resources of the group. They have primary preferences in mating and feeding. Yellow baboons are diurnal animals. During most of their active these animals look for food, occasionally stopping to socialize. They climb to the trees by night in order to sleep in a special area of the forest called 'sleeping groove', located in the core of a troop's territory. Yellow baboons are known to form very large social units, members of which communicate with each other through a complex system of signals. Instead of fighting, these baboons display threat through a wide variety of ways such as intense staring, eyelid displays, ground-slapping, branch-shaking as well as yawning, during which males expose their canines.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Yellow baboons are usually considered to be frugivores, but these animals are actually dietary generalists, consuming various types of food from pods, grass, sedges, seeds, fruit, roots, leaves, buds, bark and flowers to insects and meat. These primates have been known to hunt and eat rabbits and Vervet monkeys.

Mating Habits

175-181 days
1 infant
1 year

Yellow baboons are polygynandrous (promiscuous) with both males and females mating with multiple partners. Yellow baboons breed year-round. Gestation period varies between 175 and 181 days. Females produce a single offspring at intervals of about 21 - 27 months. During the first few months, the baby totally depends on its mother, after which it begins taking solid food. After a while, the infant is able to walk without its mother's help. The young baboon is independent and fully weaned at around one year old. As a general rule, 70 - 97% of young males disperse upon reaching independence, some leaving their natal group even prior to reaching sexual maturity. On the other hand, young females generally remain with their natal group throughout their lives, but they may transfer to new groups as well. Females reach maturity around 5-6 years of age, while males become mature at 4-7 years of age.


Population threats

The biggest threat to the population of Yellow baboons is hunting for food by local people, compounded by the growing human population within the natural range of this species. Furthermore, Yellow baboons presently suffer from continuous habitat destruction as a result of human activities. Some parts of their range are turned to agricultural land, thus destroying vital foraging and sheltering sites of these animals. Additionally, Yellow baboons are commonly persecuted and killed as pests because of raiding agricultural fields during periods of food scarcity. Other localized concerns include a high number of road mortality and exportation of individuals from East Africa to be used in medical research.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Yellow baboon is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers remain stable.

Ecological niche

Yellow baboons form an important link in the food chain of their range. Firstly, they control population numbers of the animals they consume. Then, they themselves are a prey species for numerous local predators. Furthermore, due to occasionally passing seeds through their bodies undigested as well as carrying fruits away from trees, Yellow baboons act as seed dispersers of these plant species. Meanwhile, they largely contribute to soil aeration within their range through their habit of digging for roots and tubers.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Yellow baboons display goodwill through various ways such as grinning, lip-smacking as well as presenting a part of the body for grooming. The latter is a very important activity in this species, believed to help settle down conflict between individuals.
  • The communication system of these primates includes over 10 various vocalizations.
  • Males lead and guide the troops on their travelling routes. They make sure that females and their offspring are in the middle of the group to be protected. Meanwhile, less dominant males usually go in the rear.
  • As baboons live in a rather complex social hierarchy system, some sub-species display inventive behaviors, helping them avoid unwanted conflict. Thus, males are known to use infants for a safe approach, picking up a baby and holding it up when approaching each other. This method do works, since the presence of an infant alleviates the situation, allowing further association between two males.
  • These animals are capable of living long periods of time without directly drinking water and getting required moisture by licking dew form their coats, where it accumulates during the night.
  • As a matter of fact, humans and baboons share as much as 91% identical DNA.

Coloring Pages


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

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