As the the primate release programme is wrapped up after a very successful year, here’s a heartfelt blog from Anne, Primate Release Manager…congratulations team!   

Read previous blogs here

“In the golden sunlight of a late afternoon a troop of wild baboons appears from the trees and walks into the savannah. It’s the release group from Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. They walk towards the release team, showing off their shiny fur, their big bellies and their healthy babies. They don’t need us anymore…what a year it has been. After their rough start in life they got the chance to live in the wild. Which is beautiful and free but also tough. They did so well!

We started out with 26 baboons, each one a unique characters that we got to know and love. We knew that they couldn’t all survive – even a wild troop will lose an average of 14% of their members in a year.  We expected to lose 3 or 4 at least and probably more. We worried about them every day and dreaded losing any one of them.  In the end we lost two to the circle of life, we think taken by a leopard. Sad, but this is how nature works and we ended up seeing the positive and being happy that it was less than we expected! The other side of the circle of life is that three healthy babies were born and are still alive, growing, playing, being wild, and two males grew up during this year and decided to go find some new females. In a wild troop they would grow up with mothers, sisters, and aunts so it is natural for them to take off and find some unrelated ladies that they can make babies with. We still hope to run into them some time so we can see they found their place.

While the group walks past us the babies look at us curiously. We have been around less and less and to them we are strange creatures. The males keep them away from us and rightfully so because they should stay wild. Some of the males wear the scars of their wild life where they have fought for their place in the group as well as for their females. The wild guy that joined the group had to leave again. He thought he could have his share of the good life with our group but underestimated how much our males like their ladies and were willing to work together to keep him away from them. They have fought hard but lived to tell and their scars make them look tough and seem to be proof of their capability of living the wild life. Who said it would be easy?

The dry season was very dry this year. Permanent water holes dried out and animals were struggling all through the park. Our baboons walked great distances to find their food and water, at that moment still helped by the wild male, and they made it through. Now the rains have started and the park is green and lush, food is abundant and water is everywhere. Time to enjoy. They don’t have to walk far and can spend some quality time with the family. They groom and play. Even the most serious adult cannot resist the playful challenge of the young ones. Then they take off. They cross the savannah into the woodland on the other side. We take one more picture. A tear drops, sad, happy, proud. They are free.

sunlight playing bb play family bj benjamin baby 13_Dedza