When a young male baboon matures, he leaves the family group to join a new troop. His first gestures are toward an adult female who may make friends with him. His gestures of friendship include lip-smacking, grunting, and grooming. It will take several months of this kind of friendly behavior before a more permanent bond is established between them. A female may have friendships with more than one male, and when she is ready to mate she may do so with all of her male friends. Social grooming between females and males is always between friends. A female benefits from this relationship by gaining protection and help in caring for her offspring. A male benefits by having a female with which to mate. These friendships do not insure the male paternity of infants, but the social benefits seem to outweigh paternity rights in baboon societies.
There are often fights among males for the right to mate with females in estrus. Males do not have the strong ranking order that the females have among their family relatives, and males must compete for mating rights. Among some species of baboon, the older males mate more than younger dominant males because the older males have more friendships with females, and these bonds are of a longer duration.
Baboons, like people, will often trick their peers into getting something they want. Researchers once witnessed a young male baboon tricking an adult female into relinquishing the roots she was digging by signaling that he was being attacked. When his mother came to the rescue and saw only the other female, she chased the other baboon into the woods. As soon as the root digger was chased away, the young male took the tubers for himself. In another example, a female baboon groomed an adult male until he became so relaxed he fell asleep and forgot his antelope meat. Once he was asleep, she took the meat for herself.
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