The olive baboon is named for its coat, which, at a distance, is a shade of green-grey. Its alternative name
comes from the Egyptian god Anubis, who was often represented by a dog head resembling the dog-like muzzle of
the baboon. At closer range, its coat is multicolored, due to rings of yellow-brown and black on the hairs.
The hair on the baboon's face, however, is coarser and ranges from dark grey to black. This coloration is
shared by both sexes, although males have a mane of longer hair that tapers down to ordinary length along the
Besides the mane, the male olive baboon differs from the female in terms of size and weight, and canine
tooth size; males are, on average, 70 cm (28 in) tall while standing and females measure 60 cm (24 in) in
height. The olive baboon is one of the largest species of monkey; only the chacma baboon and the mandrill
attain similar sizes. The head-and-body length can range from 50 to 114 cm (20 to 45 in), with a species
average of around 85 cm (33 in). At the shoulder on all fours, females average 55 cm (22 in) against males,
which average 70 cm (28 in). The typical weight range for both sexes is reportedly 10-37 kg (22–82 lb), with
males averaging 24 kg (53 lb) and females averaging 14.7 kg (32 lb). Some males may weigh as much as 50 kg
Like other baboons, the olive baboon has an elongated, dog-like muzzle. In fact, along with the muzzle, the
animal's tail (38-58 cm or 15-23 in) and four-legged gait can make baboons seem very canine. The tail almost
looks as if it is broken, as it is erect for the first quarter, after which it drops down sharply. The bare
patch of a baboon's rump, famously seen in cartoons and movies, is a good deal smaller in the olive baboon.
The olive baboon, like most cercopithecines, has a cheek pouch with which to store food.
Distribution and habitat
The species inhabits a strip of 25 equatorial African countries, very nearly ranging from the east to west
coasts of the continent. The exact boundaries of this strip are not clearly defined, as the species'
territory overlaps with that of other baboon species. In many places, this has resulted in cross-breeding
between species. For example, considerable hybridization has occurred between the olive baboon and the
hamadryas baboon in Ethiopia. Cross-breeding with the yellow baboon and the Guinea baboon has also been
observed. Although this has been noted, the hybrids have not as yet been well studied.
Throughout its wide range, the olive baboon can be found in a number of different habitats. It is usually
classified as savanna-dwelling, living in the wide plains of the grasslands. The grasslands, especially
those near open woodland, do make up a large part of its habitat, but the baboon also inhabits rainforests
and deserts. Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, both support olive baboon
populations in dense tropical forests.
One major reason for its widespread success is that the olive baboon is omnivorous. As such it is able to
find nutrition in almost any environment, and it is able to adapt with different foraging tactics. For
instance, the olive baboon in grassland goes about finding food differently from one in a forest. The baboon
forages on all levels of an environment, above and beneath the ground and in the canopy of forests. Most
animals only look for food at one level; an arboreal species such as a lemur does not look for food on the
ground. The olive baboon searches as wide an area as it can, and it eats virtually everything it finds.
The diet typically includes a large variety of plants, and invertebrates and small mammals, as well as birds.
The olive baboon eats leaves, grass, roots, bark, flowers, fruit, lichens, tubers, seeds, mushrooms, corms,
and rhizomes. Corms and rhizomes are especially important in times of drought, because grass loses a great
deal of its nutritional value. In dry, arid regions, such as the northeastern deserts, small invertebrates
like insects, spiders, and scorpions fill out its diet.
The olive baboon also actively hunts prey, from small rodents and hares to foxes and other primates. Its
limit is usually small antelope, such as Thomson's gazelle and also, rarely, sheep, goats, and live chickens,
which may amount to 33.5% of its food from hunting. Hunting is usually a group activity, with both males and
females participating. Interestingly, this systematic predation was apparently developed recently. In a
field study, such behavior was observed as starting with the males of one troop and spreading through all
ages and sexes.
In Eritrea, the olive baboon has formed a symbiotic relationship with that country's endangered elephant
population. The baboons use the water holes dug by the elephants, while the elephants use the tree-top
baboons as an early warning system.
Reproduction and parenting
Females are sexually mature at seven to eight years old, and males at seven to 10 years. The beginning of a
female's ovulation is a signal to the males that she is ready to mate. During ovulation, the skin of the
female's anogenital area swells and turns a bright red/pink. The swelling makes it difficult to move and
increases the female's chance of microbial or parasitic infection. Females with more swollen anogenital areas
reproduce while younger, produce more offspring per year, and those offspring have a better chance of
surviving. These females also attract more males, and are more likely to cause aggressive fights between
them. Olive baboons tend to mate promiscuously. A male forms a mating consortship with an estrous female,
staying close to and copulating with her. Males guard their partner against any other male trying to mate
with her. Unless a female is in a multiday consortship, she often copulates with more than one male each day.
Multiple copulations are not necessary for reproduction, but may function to make the actual paternity of
the female's offspring ambiguous. This lack of paternal certainty could help reduce the occurrence of
infanticide. Occasionally, male olive baboons monopolize a female for her entire period of probable
conception. The male protects his female from being mated by other males during consortship.
Newborns have black natal coats and bright pink skin. Females are the primary caregivers of infants, but
males also play a role. In its first few days, the infant may be unable to stay attached to its mother and
relies on her for physical support. However, its grasp grows stronger by its first week and it is able to
cling to its mother's fur by itself. By two weeks, the infant begins to explore its surroundings for short
periods, but stays near her. The distance the infant spends away from its mother increases the older it
gets. In general, higher-ranking females are usually more relaxed parents than females of lower rank, which
usually keep their offspring close to them. However, this difference only lasts for approximately the first
eight weeks of an infant's life. Olive baboons do not seem to practice co-operative parenting, but a female
may groom an infant that is not hers. Subadult and juvenile females are more likely to care for another's
young, as they have not yet produced offspring of their own. One theory for why immature females tend to
seek out infants is that they can prepare for their future roles as mothers. Infant baboons born to
first-time mothers suffer higher mortality than those born to experienced mothers, which suggests that prior
experience in caring for infants is important. Adult males in the groups also care for the infants, as they
are likely to be related to them. Males groom infants, reducing the amount of parasites they may have, and
calm them when they are stressed. They may also protect them from predators, such as chimpanzees. However,
adult males exploit infants and use them to reduce the likelihood that other males will threaten them.
The olive baboon lives in groups of 15 to 150, made up of a few males, many females, and their young. Each
baboon has a social ranking somewhere in the group, depending on its dominance. Female dominance is
hereditary, with daughters having nearly the same rank as their mothers, and adult females forming the core
of the social system. Female relatives form their own subgroups in the troop. Related females are largely
friendly to each other. They tend to stay close together and groom one another, and team up in aggressive
encounters within the troop. Female kin form these strong bonds because they do not emigrate from their
Occasionally, groups may split up when they become so large that competition for resources is problematic,
but even then, members of matrilines tend to stick together. Dominant females procure more food,
matings, and supporters. Among olive baboons in Tanzania, high-ranking females give birth at shorter
intervals to infants with a higher survival rate, and their daughters tend to mature faster than low-ranking
females. However, these high-ranking females also appear to have a higher probability of miscarriages and
some high-ranking matrilines have inexplicably low fertility. One theory suggests this occurs due to stress
on the high-ranking females, although this theory is controversial.
A female often forms a long-lasting social relationship with a male in her troop, known as a "friendship".
These nonsexual affiliative friendships benefit both the male and female. Males benefit from these
relationships because they are usually formed soon after he immigrates into a new group, and helps the male
integrate into the group more easily. He could also potentially end up mating with his female friend in the
future. Females gain protection from threats to themselves and their infants (if they have any). Males
occasionally "baby-sit" for their female friends, so she can feed and forage freely without the burden of
having to carry or watch the infant. Sexually receptive females and newly immigrated males can form such
friendships. These relationships are sometimes enduring and the pair grooms and remains close to each
other. They also travel, forage, sleep, and raise infants together, as well as fight together against
Males establish their dominance more forcefully than females. A male disperses, or leaves his natal group and
joins another group, after reaching sexual maturity. Adult males are very competitive with each other and
fight for access to females. Higher dominance means better access to mating and earlier access to food, so
naturally a great deal of fighting over rank occurs, with younger males constantly trying to rise in
position. Because females stay with their groups their entire lives, and males emigrate to others, often a
new male challenges an older one for dominance. Frequently, when older baboons drop in the social hierarchy,
they move to another tribe. The younger males who pushed them down often bullies and harasses them. Older
males tend to have more supportive and equal relationships than those of the younger males. The former may
form coalitions against the latter.
Despite being hierarchical, baboons appear to be "democratic" when it comes to deciding the direction of
collective movement. Individuals are more likely to follow when multiple decision-makers agree on what
direction to go rather than simply following dominant individuals.
Olive baboons communicate with various vocalizations and facial expressions. Throughout the day, baboons of
all ages emit the "basic grunt". Adults give a range of calls. The "roargrunt" is made by adult males
displaying to each other. The "cough-bark", and the "cough geck" are made when low-flying birds or humans
they do not know are sighted. A "wa-hoo" call is made in response to predators or neighboring groups at
night and during stressful situations. Other vocalizations include "broken grunting" (low-volume, quick
series of grunts made during relatively calm aggressive encounters), "pant-grunts" (made when aggressive
encounters escalate), "shrill barks" (loud calls given when potential threats appear suddenly), and "screams"
(continuous high-pitch sounds responding to strong emotions). The most common facial expression of the olive
baboon is "lipsmacking", which is associated with a number of behaviors. "Ear flattening", "eyes narrowed",
"head shaking", "jaw-clapping", lipsmacking, and "tongue protrusion" are used when baboons are greeting each
other, and are sometimes made with a "rear present". "Eyebrow raising", "molar grinding", "staring",
and "yawning" are used to threaten other baboons. A submissive baboon responds with displays such as the
"fear grin", the "rigid crouch", and "tail erect".
Zoológico de Vallarta A. C.
Leave your comments, your opinion is important to us