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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.