Baboons in fynbos

Baboons play an integral role in the ecology of Fynbos vegetation and their diet is so varied within this plant system that it may be easier to note what they don’t eat rather than the extensive list of what they do!  I’ve been fortunate to sight a couple of the troops recently in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve while out cycling and have been able to observe their foraging.  After good rainfall this winter the vegetation is green and succulent and the animals are in good condition.  The temperature has also been colder than usual so it’s interesting to note their thick ‘winter coats’.

A confident posture and bearing marks this alpha male. He is in peak condition and commands respect from the ranks.
Layers of thick hair serve as protection from winter’s chilly temperature.
Foraging on the fruit of wild olive trees, Olea europaea subsp. africana.  
They tuck in with gusto feasting on the ripe black olives. I too sampled a couple curious to test the flavour. Pleasant enough, the initial bite was grape-like, and then with a bitter after taste.
It was most surprising to see this plant on the menu: Cullumia squarrosa, or snake thistle. It’s a prickly little number! I had in the past seen them eating the flowers, but not the the needle like leaves. Reading a description of the plant, the inner involucral bracts are without prickles and I noted that they were only plucking off the top most growth.
They certainly get a good portion of fiber in their diet.  This plant is endemic to the Cape Peninsula – a coastal bush found only in the extreme south western Cape.

The pollinator

Feasting on pincushion blooms (Leucospermum conocarpodendron), a young juvenile baboon, while handling the flowers gets covered in pollen.  As he scrambles across the bush he’ll provide a useful service of cross pollination by brushing against the pollen and spreading it to different flowers.   There he is fulfilling an ecological role as a part of a functioning ecosystem.

High in a Tree pincushion (Leucospermum conocarpodendrum, a young juvenile baboon chews on pincushion flowers.
Baboons are drawn to the Tree pincushion – Leucospermum conocarpodendron, Kreupelhout for the sweet nectar.

The Rustle of Spring

Spring is rolling in here on the Cape Peninsula after late winter rain, the wild flowers are abloom in swathes of rich tones.  It makes the heart sing; the senses washed wild by the earthy scent of rain – petrichor, a counterpoint to all that sensuous colour.

The osteospermums were the first to make an appearance with the felicias and senecias opening close behind and now the vibrant vygies are splashing out in a voluptuous spread.

Namaqualand spring daisies.

We celebrate the floral abundance here in the heart of one of Nature’s jewels: the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the six floral kingdoms in the world.  It may be the smallest, but it has an astonishing variety of over 8578 plant species and spring is a showcase season.  Though there is always some delight to be discovered as different species flower throughout the year.

While writing this post I watch as a tiny fledgling – a Southern Double-collared sunbird flies hesitantly round the backyard as the parents hover, coaxing and calling.  The nest was built high up in the Cape honeysuckle which grows up a trellis with long trailing tendrils.  The sunbirds and the Cape Sugarbird  serve as useful pollinators along with a fascinating array of insects.

The male sunbird showing off the richly iridescent chest feathers.

To finish off, perhaps some inspiration from Sinding?