As part of her research, Joselyn Mormile tracked where baboons spent their time and what was attracting them. Their range is plotted in the squares - the more dense the red, the more time they spend at those locations.
You may have wondered how the baboons choose where to spend their days in village or where they go when they aren’t in the village. To answer these questions, and others, I used GPS collars which provided me with the location of the collared baboon every half an hour. Results of the final analyses offer some very interesting findings!
The troop has an estimated home range that stretches from Sparks Bay through the smallholdings towards Pringle Bay, and is a range of 5.7km2. This is on the low end for chacma baboon home range sizes, which indicates that they are able to meet their needs in a fairly small area. They spent approximately 50% of their time in the village, despite the fact that the village only accounts for about 15% of their entire home range. Models of their movement reveal that they prefer to spend time in low-lying areas, which offer more productive vegetation, near their sleeping sites in the mountains. This makes the village a prime location to forage before we even consider any other factors!
The baboons need access to the coastal plain vegetation. They play an important role in dispersing the seed and keeping our fynbos renewed. But there are other attractants too, as Joselyn explains below
The video clip of baboons foraging was shared by another Rooielser - dont miss the youngster that comes flying down from the pole having been displaced by a large male (25 seconds into the video)
Within the village, the baboons chose to spend more time on properties in closer proximity to a household that routinely sets food out for wildlife. Feeding baboons creates a myriad of issues including, but not limited to, disrupting their social behavior, altering their daily activity patterns, diverting them from fulfilling their ecological role in the fynbos and even encouraging assertive behavior towards people. It is also prohibited by law.
One particular property, which was feeding them for many years no longer offers food. It was a powerful magnet that drew in the troop, altering both the size and shape of their entire home range.
If we look at their diet as a whole, the troop spent the majority of their time eating fynbos (Osteospermum monilifera “bitou” berries and Searsia lucida berries are the top favorites!) and grass. Grass, predominantly in the form of lawns on properties, serves as a reliable winter fallback food when fynbos is less productive. It also offers a soft, open area for the youngsters to play and everyone to relax.
As it turns out, grass is so important to the troop that my data show the more lawn you have, the more often the baboons will visit! Their use of individual properties was also predicted by resident behavior, as self-reported in my study questionnaire. The troop spent significantly more time on properties, predominately resting and socialising, where residents did not deter them.
There is much more to share from my study. I look forward to sharing my finished thesis with the village soon!
Photos by Joselyn
Photos and anecdotes from Rooielsers
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