Here’s an update from our Dutch couple Anne and Sebas who are up in Kasungu National Park monitoring our most recent release group who were released this January. Also a couple of photos of Mandy, Juri and their baby Mikeno hanging out together for some quality family time, and a great one of Josh chillin’ in a tree…
“It has been a while since you received an update from us – but no news is generally good news, the baboons are doing great! The rains have stopped, so they have to walk larger distances to find enough food. Juri is leading the group into unknown territory with unexpected zelfverzekerdheid (meaning something like aggressive self-assurance). He will lead them to places with fruits and seeds they have never seen before in their life, but they know exactly what to eat or not. Stuffing themselves all day, they make up for the long distances they walk. Only sometimes Juri, also known as “The Soldier” will speed up so fast that the mothers with their babies and the ones dreaming along will lose the group. Making loud contact calls to each other through the forest, they will find each other again and there is always a happy reunion.
Everybody is still growing, so there are some changes in the hierarchy of the group. The ones growing faster are taking over from the ones staying behind. This way shy Yari, who was often alone and not very popular, has become a big male that took the third place in rank. Now the ladies finally notice him! Still this doesn’t mean he gets to make babies…when the females are in oestrus, Juri will not let anybody near them, guarding them all day. Only little (well also becoming less little every day) Josh has found a way around that. You see, the ladies sleep together in one tree, far from the men, who have to protect the group at the edge of the sleeping site. Little Josh found out and decided to pay the ladies a visit early in the morning, when everybody is still asleep. He will wake the girl with some friendly grooming and then…well Juri hasn’t found out so far.
In the meantime Richard and Magda are still going steady, foraging together at the edge of the group. Richard will always greet us in the morning and then continue as usual. Both him and his girl are never disturbed by us, so we can get quite close, which makes them favourites for observation. Sometimes they use this to their advantage. They found out that eating behind the humans, makes sure that almost all other animals stay away so they won’t take their food! Off course we don’t want to mess with hierarchy, but our couple being low ranked and skinny as they are, sometimes deserves a break.
It’s not only rozengeur en maneschijn (not all good news). In the highest ranks, things have been tough. Mary, our alpha female, gave birth to a baby that had problems from birth. The baby didn’t look very normal and Mary seemed a bit insecure how to handle her. This is strange since we often call Mary “Mother Mary” because she is so good with all the babies. In the end the baby died. This was very sad and Mary called out for her baby a couple of days. Luckily now she has directed all of her motherly love to the other babies, taking care of them, defending them and grooming a lot. Even the ones that are officially not even babies anymore enjoy the attention they are getting.
Luckily Juri and the other males are helping to keep any more bad news at bay. Protecting the group so well, that the leopards, hyenas, birds of prey, snakes and even the solitary lion roaming the release site, haven’t found a chance to harm any of our baboons. Also the group seems to know better and better how to respond to danger. Last week a massive snake moved around their foraging site. There were alarm calls and everybody did what they had to do, but there was no big panic. They moved out of its way far enough and studied it from there. We were quietly proud of how they responded, thinking that actually our baboons were quite cool. They are living their wild life, being more and more independent, following their instincts and learning along the way. We follow them, study them and enjoy watching them grow.”