Sunbleached tresses, all windblown and tousled. The Cape Peninsula Chacma baboons have a touch of the ‘beachcomber’ in their looks. They’re rather unique in that they include shellfish and marine invertebrates in their diet and it’s quite a treat to observe them foraging in rock pools.
In contrast here is a shot of a male baboon from the arid regions of Namibia; it’s a wonder that baboons can survive in such extreme environments with little available water and soaring temperatures. Recently I came across an article on their behavioural adaptations and the ability to thermoregulate the body core. Temperature fluctuations occur when drinking water and sand bathing and could alter as much as 5.3*C.
The Baboon species is the most adaptable of the non-human primates inhabiting a range of habitats from coastal, savannah, forest and desert ……. and some might even say that they’re pretty adept at living on the urban edge.
It was one of those perfect spring days, warm and sunny and the local baboon troop came down to forage along the beach. Playful, curious and full of energy, the youngest baboons explore their surroundings. Observing them from a distance and not intruding into their space (keeping 10m away) is part of a photographer’s required etiquette around these wild animals.
Two days have passed since the storm and the sandy beach where I photographed the galloping zebra has altered in the aftermath. Today it is strewn with huge piles of kelp, dislodged by the powerful waves and borne in on the spring high tide.
The zebra gallops across the sandy expanse.
Kelp washed ashore after the storm
The kelp brought with it a bonanza for the baboons, a feast of mussels still attached to the fronds. The baboons living along the coast supplement their diet with this highly nutritious resource which is rich in omega oils. They tucked in with gusto, and I noticed that some of the older females had packed their cheek pouches until they bulged into hanging pouches. There was a lot of ‘chatter’ as they sucked and chewed and a delightful sound of ‘hiccups’ as one greedy adult male gulped down the morsels far too quickly.
As baby baboons develop they progess from clinging below their mothers’ bellies to riding atop their backs. This juvenile baboon is probably old enough to be walking alongside its mother; instead it displays a rather confident riding ‘style’.
A crisis looms here in the Cape as drought grips the city of Cape Town and the surrounds. It is interesting to see these scenes at Olifantsbos beach where a gaggle of Egyptian geese and baboons hang out together, drawn to a fresh water spring very close to the edge of the tidal line.