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Baboon Models

Baboons were studied for a long time as models of primate behavior and used to help construct the evolution of human behavior. More recently, chimpanzees have been used as a model because of their genetically close relationship to humans, and because they exhibit toolmaking, some language-like ability, and some mathematical cognition. Until recently, baboon troops were thought to be male-dominated. Studies have now demonstrated the cohesive nature of the matrilineal structure of baboon society.

What continues to interest researchers about baboons is how adaptable they are, even when their habitats are threatened. Baboons have become skillful crop raiders in areas where their terrains have been taken up by humans for agriculture. In spite of this adaptability, some species are threatened or endangered. For example, the drill is highly endangered due to habitat destruction and commercial hunting. In 1984, in a unique study designed to save three troops of baboons from human encroachment, baboon biologist Shirley C. Strum translocated the 132 animals 125 mi (200 km) away from their original home to a harsh outpost of 15,000 acres (6,075 hectares) near the Ndorobo Reserve on the Laikipia Plateau north of Mt. Kenya. Every baboon of the three different groups were captured to ensure social integrity.

After release, Strum found that the translocated groups watched and followed local troops of baboons to find food and water. Within six weeks, indigenous males joined the translocated troops, providing a good source of intelligence about the area. Strum found that the translocated animals learned by trial and error. The topography of the area meant that some portions of the range had good food in the wet seasons and other portions had good food in the dry seasons. To feed efficiently, the baboons had to learn this difference and to switch their ranging seasonally. Today, there are still a few differences between indigenous and translocated baboons in behavior and diet, but on the whole, it is difficult to tell that the groups had different origins.



Cheney, Dorothy L., and Robert M. Seyfarth. How Monkeys See the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Grzimek, Bernhard. Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.

Loy, James, and Calvin B. Peters. Understanding Behavior: What Primate Studies Tell Us about Human Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

MacDonald, David, and Sasha Norris, eds. Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File, 2001.

Mason, William A., and Sally P. Mendoza. Primate Social Conflict. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Strum, Shirley C. Almost Human: A Journey into the World of Baboons. New York: Random House, 1987.


"Abnormal, Abusive, And Stress-Related Behaviors In Baboon Mothers." Biological Psychiatry 52, no. 11 (2002): 1047-1056.

Maestripieri, Dario. "Evolutionary Theory And Primate Behavior." International Journal of Primatology 23, no. 4 (2002): 703-705.

Strum, Shirley C. "Moving The Pumphouse Gang." International Wildlife (May/June 1998).

Vita Richman


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—A condition marking ovulation and sexual receptiveness in female mammals.


—The act of hunting for food.


—Social relationships built around the mother and her children.


—Walking on the whole foot, not just the toes as cats and dogs do.


—Body gestures that signal intentions or emotions among baboons.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: A-series and B-series to Ballistic Missiles - Categories Of Ballistic MissileBaboons - Physical Characteristics, Social Behavior, Baboon Friendships, Food And Foraging Habits, Communication, Baboon Models