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Ask The Baboon Experts

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Courtesy of Animal Behavior Research Unit (2)

If you missed our Wild Ladies of Viramba live chat with baboon experts Guy Norton and Dawn Hawkins, we've got the transcript with your baboon questions answered, right here.

baboonboy: I had the good luck to study a troop of 45 Chacma baboons at De Hoop National Park in South Africa in 2000. Whilst I was there I noticed some intriguing behavior by one of the lower ranked females called Tess. Whilst digging for tubers on the lake bank (vlei) she would periodically wash the roots in the water beside her, presumably to wash the tubers of the soil. Interestingly, this behaviour was also practised by her twin sister, but no one else in the group. I know this behaviour has been witnessed with Japanese macaques (potatoes and saltwater) but is there any other documented evidence of this in other species of monkeys or baboons such as the troop at Viremba?

Guy Norton: I would say that you see differences between individuals in terms of how they handle food. It's very difficult to be certain that this is a tradition as has been seen with Japanese macaques, but traditions are seen in a variety of monkey species. The macaques are the best known and best documented example. I think your observations are very interesting.

Meet the Experts

Guy Norton Guy Norton probably knows as much about yellow baboons as anyone else in the world. A distinguished primatologist, his areas of interest include yellow baboon feeding behavior, the function of their cheek pouches, competition within and between troops, the ecology of group movements and how ectoparasites (like ticks) affect grooming patterns. When he's not studying yellow baboons, he works as a senior lecturer in animal behavior and ecology at Anglia Polytechnic University in the United Kingdom. He's also the director of the Animal Behavior Research Unit, which operates the Viramba baboon project in Tanzania's Mikumi National Park.

Dawn Hawkins

Dawn Hawkins works closely with Guy Norton as a senior lecturer in animal behavior at Anglia Polytechnic University and as a research associate for the Animal Behavior Research Unit. Like Guy, she's an expert on yellow baboons, specifically their behavior and ecology. Together they've expanded the focus of the Animal Behavior Research Unit to include wildlife management and conservation studies. She's currently the senior scientist for the unit's Darwin Initiative Elephant Project, which aims to monitor, manage and protect the elephants of Mikumi National Park.

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