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Baboons belong to the family of Old World monkeys, inhabiting most parts of Africa where they live in troops. They have long muzzles, long tails, brown fur and a vicious set of canine teeth. The social structure of baboons and organization of their troops has attracted the attention of psychologists since each troop is a family unit with mating taking place between members of the group. A troop of baboons will consist of old males, juveniles, females and babies. Some troops will have up to 50 baboons, while in some cases the troops have even been known to band with other troops to form herds. Members of a troop will never wander far from each other. There is a definite range of country used when each member searches for food. There is a definite social structure to each troop that always insures the female and young are protected.
The lion, cheetah and leopard are the main predators of the baboon. Sleeping in trees at night and spending their day in the open is the baboons basis for defence. Baboons use a warning system when predators approach, using continuous quite grunts as they are feeding but when one is disturbed giving a shrill bark to alert the others. When a female gives the alarm, one male will move away from the troop to keep the intruder under observation, giving two barks if the intruder moves. The troops reaction to attack is to run for the nearest trees or rocks where they are safe from the predator, barking in defiance all the way. Old males, who are more courageous, will sometimes turn on their enemy. As a group these males are much more than a match for any predator.
Baboons will breed throughout the year. If a female is not pregnant or nursing they come into heat for a week each month. There is a pecking order within the troop among the males with little or no fighting involved when it comes to receptive females. Basically all males are free to mate with the females, but in most cases the dominant male is chosen by the female. The pairings are temporary and a newborn baboon is soon clinging to the hair of its mother's chest within hours of its birth. As young baboons grow older they learn to ride on their mothers backs and shorty afterwards will begin eating solid foods. The first excursions of young baboons tend to become more and more adventurous until it meets other young baboons. It will then start to play with them until danger threatens and it seeks the safety of it's mother. Play groups of young baboons become an important factor in their lives. Through these groups they learn the skills needed in later life by using a form of games such as chasing and fighting.
Baboons are known to eat a wide variety of plant and animal foods. They have been observed eating grass heads, leaves, bark, insects, seeds, tubers, buds, fruit, grasshoppers, butterflies, lizards, hares, small monkeys and scorpions. For the baboon a scorpion is a delicacy. The animal will nip off the sting with there fingers before eating this insect. One question that has interested observers for years is how the troop stays together. Observations have shown that in contrast to other animals, baboon actively congregate around the males, participating in mutual grooming. This is considered the equivalent of allopreening which is often seen in large groups of birds.