MammalMAP: Guinea baboon
Guinea baboons (Papio papio) are the least researched of all baboons, but this is what we know of these apparently gentle creatures.
Guinea baboons are the smallest among the baboon species, and weigh between 13 and 26 kg. Like other baboon species, males are much larger than females. They have beautiful reddish-brown coats, with great variation in different parts, with the baboons in the west having lighter, strikingly red fur and the ones in east darker and more brownish fur. Interestingly, Guinea baboons have the same colour pelage on their backs, arms, cheeks and abdomen, something that does not occur in other baboons, although the skin on their face is purple black, and their bums pink. Males also have manes, although it is not as distinct as the manes of hamadryas.
Guinea baboons can be found in western equatorial Africa, in parts of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. Some have also been found in Mauritania and Mali. They prefer savannah, woodlands and Sahelian steppe, but also inhabit forests.
Papio papio eat a variety of plants, including roots, seeds, fruit, tubers and flowers, but would occasionally eat invertebrates as well as vertebrates if available. Researchers have also recently discovered that Guinea baboons enter caves to lick the walls, possibly to obtain essential salt.
These baboons seem to be the least aggressive of the species, and rather than using aggression, male baboons herd the troop using a combination of shaking, jumping and prancing to change the direction, as well as running to speed up the movement.
Guinea baboons sleep in large trees as night to avoid predators, some of which so large that the only way to access them is by leaping from cliffs or nearby trees. They also tend to sleep as far from the tree trunk as possible, rather than using the trunk of the tree to brace themselves like other baboons.
Something interesting about these baboons when facing danger: Apart from giving a volley of calls at night when predators approach, to alert predators of the presence of adult males, when predators are very close, the baboons will become nearly silent until the predator has passed the sleeping site. Clever baboons!
On the IUCN Red List, Papio papio is listed as Near Threatened, mainly because they have undergone widespread decline as a result of agricultural expansion, tree-felling as well as direct hunting for crop protection and as bush meat. Once again, humans seem to be the biggest threat of all.
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