Talk Report – March 2018

An interdisciplinary study on the human/baboon interface in Rooiels
– By Joselyn Mormile, Bsc VT, Msc, PhD candidate at UCT (17 February 2018)

A fascinating and most informative talk by Joselyn who has studied the Rooiels troop for several years – the first fine scale behavioural  study on an unmanaged urban baboon troop.

This troop comprises  27 members. There is one dominant male who has held this position for two years and reigns over 9-10 adult females.  There is also a small group of 9 sub adults and  2 juvenile males. There have been a few deaths, as well as 13 births since Joselyn began her study.

There are a few myths that need to be dispelled!

  • Youngsters are not sent into homes through burglar bars to grab food. They are the lowest members in the baboon hierarchy and afraid to leave the adults. They would be scared to enter a house alone, and in any case any food they might find would be snatched from them. So what’s the point.
  • Bearing teeth is not a sign of aggression to say ‘I will bite you’. It is rather a sign of submission (unlike with a dog).  It’s a warning – ‘don’t hurt me’
  • Electric wires are a dangerous deterrent, if on! A baboon will rather chance a shock if food is visible.

The most studied wild baboon troops are in the Cape Peninsula.  In 1998 they began to be managed.  Now there are 80 monitors who attempt to reduce the human/animal overlap. This costs about R11m per year.

Rooiels, which became a registered conservancy in 2004, has about 250 residents. Here the baboons, intelligent animals, integrate with the humans to form a coexistence model. There is conflict where the two compete for resources!  Baboons have learnt to enter cars and homes. Human food is a picnic and high in calories. With this forming part of her diet, a mother can wean an infant at seven months.  A wild baboon living on natural foods can still be feeding her infant at 13 months.

A negative attitude to baboons is generally caused by a belief that they are dangerous. Such views give little support for baboon conservation.  An interesting awareness study by Dr Jenny Starke in Rooiels records that

  • 56% liked baboons
  • 57% said they were an asset to the village
  • 10% wanted them removed
  • 75% favoured ways of living in harmony
  • 78% were willing to baboon proof their homes.

So why can Rooiels baboons live anywhere?  The area comprises low lying land, surrounded by steep slopes.  Baboon diet is generalistic – they eat anything from natural veld resources to  aliens (Manitoka, Rooikrans,  and Syzigiam). Protein is found in limpets, ants, bird eggs, and road clay is liked for its iron content. A baboon’s day is spent resting, feeding,  interacting socially and just moving about. Their village home range is just 6.2 square kilometres, whereas in the Peninsula troops range varies from 1.5 to over 37 square kms. They spend less time resting & social behaviour & more in feeding & locomotion.

There are 5 troops in the Kogelberg  area.

  1. Kogelberg
  2. Rooiels
  3. Buffelsrivier Dam
  4. Pringle Bay – a managed troop and
  5. Hangklip which has not yet been studied.

So what of the future?  Would inclusion be possible?  Or exclusion?  Check for more information at, or visit Joselyn’s website at