The Hamadryas Baboon (Papio hamadryas) was once revered by Ancient Egyptians as representatives of the Egyptian god of learning, hamadryas baboons are also referred to as Sacred Baboons. These hardy Old World monkeys display complex social behaviors, and can live in troops of several hundred individuals. The remarkable silver manes and pink faces of adult males add to the unique nature of these intelligent primates.
Hamadryas baboons are large-bodied monkeys with a strong build and a dog-like muzzle. Both males and females have brown or light gray fur. While the females of this species have hairless black and brown faces, the male hamadryas baboon has a distinctive mantle (mane) of long silvery hair and a bright pink face and backside. These baboons sport a relatively short, tufted tail that is not prehensile.
Hamadryas baboons are diurnal animals, meaning that they are active during the day. After awaking around sunrise, troops of several hundred baboons will come together to socialize. This includes chasing, playing, and social grooming within their "One Male Unit" (OMU) social group. Afterward, the troop leaves the sleeping site, breaks off into smaller groups called bands, and the bands separate into OMUs to forage for food.
Hamadryas baboons can fall prey to leopards, hyenas, and Verreaux’s eagles; however, many animals that may have been natural predators to the baboons historically no longer exist within the baboons’ habitat. Hamadryas baboons rely on assembling into large groups for protection. Groups are largest while getting water and sleeping, as these are times when baboons are most vulnerable. As another level of security, troops of baboons favor sleeping in high places.
HABITAT AND DIET
Hamadryas baboons live in diverse habitats ranging from subdesert to savanna and into steppe, plains, and arid brushland. Rather than trees, these primates prefer to live near high cliffs where they can gain access to acacia, opuntia cactus, and a water source.
Hamadryas baboons forage for food by day in One Male Units (OMUs) made up of a small group of monkeys from the larger troop. At night, the smaller groups coalesce at the sleeping site to form troops of several hundred individuals. Sleeping sites are often located on cliff sides, but hamadryas baboons will also occasionally find shelter in trees. Above all else, these monkeys make sure to find a home near water.
Hamadryas baboons have a polygynous mating system, where the dominant male mates with more than one female. Within these social groups, called One Male Units (OMUs), females bond with males by grooming the male leader of their unit. This is where the male’s mantle (mane) comes into play, as it seems that grooming behaviors are exclusively focused on the male.
Hamadryas baboons are listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They exist in stable, even growing populations. Once collected in great numbers for medical research, they currently face only a few localized threats. Their range often overlaps urban and agricultural areas. While these monkeys are commonly tolerated by humans, they are occasionally considered a pest, as they can destroy crops and can become aggressive when approached. As agricultural and irrigation development continues to expand, it may result in greater conflict with humans as well as habitat loss.