Olive baboon (Papio anubis) with juvenile
Big cats are powerful and hyenas are cunning but mature male olive baboons (Papio anubis) combine these attributes with viciousness, fearlessness and anger, which enables them to drive most others away from a kill. Males grow up to 74cm in length and can weigh 28kg, so they are not enormous, but it is their attitude - and their vast canine teeth - which make them so formidable.

Olive baboons, which are found in most of sub-Saharan east Africa, are very social animals, living in a matriarchal troop of about 50 individuals who work together for mutual benefit. Grooming, recreation and even apparent friendships play an important part. The troop spirit shows itself when a large adversary needs to be dealt with. The late South African naturalist Eugene Marais once witnessed two baboons attacking a leopard which was threatening their troop. They ambushed the cat as it stalked the main group and although both were killed in the fight, one of them mortally wounded the leopard by puncturing its jugular vein with its long canine teeth. They sacrificed themselves but saved the troop.

Olive baboons are opportunistic feeders eating mainly fruit and grass but also tubers, bulbs, flowers, leaves and seeds as well as insects, eggs, birds and even tree gum. They prey on hares and young gazelle and will take advantage of any kill they come across. They are active during the day and sleep in trees or on cliffs to avoid predators.


ARKive photos and videos of the olive baboon