Original Research

Population structure and habitat use of baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus) in the Blyde Canyon Nature Reserve

A.J. Marais, L.R. Brown, L. Barrett, S.P. Henzi
Koedoe | Vol 49, No 2 | a117 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v49i2.117 | © 2006 A.J. Marais, L.R. Brown, L. Barrett, S.P. Henzi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 December 2006 | Published: 18 December 2006

About the author(s)

A.J. Marais, University of South Africa, South Africa
L.R. Brown, University of South Africa, South Africa
L. Barrett, University of South Africa, South Africa
S.P. Henzi, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Abstract

Baboons are highly intelligent and ecologically flexible animals with attributes that allow them to exploit diverse habitats. As a result of their dietary flexibility they often exploit human habitats, causing damage to crops and forest plantations as well as to human dwellings. In the South African context this has led to baboons being regarded as problem animals and attempted extirpation is the most common approach to the damage they cause. This perception of and attitude toward baboons gives many conservationists cause for concern since all southern African cercopithecine primates are CITES listed and it has not been proven that this strategy is the best long-term solution. As part of a research programme focusing on the damage done by chacma baboons in pine plantations along the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga, a single troop in the Blyde Canyon Nature Reserve was studied to describe their patterns of habitat use. Vegetation and habitat surveys were conducted within the home range of the troop. The troop was habituated and each member’s activity, location and food items utilised were recorded over a 12 month period. The results of this study indicate that baboons utilised plant communities based on food production and availability rather than size in hectares. The results also indicate that the group size, foraging and food search strategies of this troop resembles that of the Drakensberg troops previously studied. The study troop employs two different forage modes of engagement depending on where they choose to forage while they avoid utilising an easily accessible pine plantation. Due to the troop’s long inter-birth intervals it is likely that the current forestry practice of extirpation may have a negative influence on baboon population viability in these areas.

Keywords

Chacma baboons; Mpumalanga; Home range; Population structure; Habitat use

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