Baboons are omnivores and eat a varied diet to obtain the nutrients they require to thrive.

Like other primates baboons have a large, flat molars which they use to grind down vegetation. Baboons are adaptable and feed on wild fruits and nuts, shoots, grasses and small vertebrates and invertebrates.

Fynbos is the most common natural vegetation on the Peninsula and is also the natural food of the baboons who live there. Fynbos is low in protein and nutrients and the baboons have learnt to select the most nutritious parts of over a hundred different plant types. They also eat clay for trace minerals and the nutritious seeds of alien trees. Coastal baboons may forage along rocky shorelines where they harvest nutritious protein-rich mussels and limpets.

Foraging is hard work and baboons are intelligent enough to learn that raiding humans for food can be very rewarding. This behaviour is not a result of a lack of food in their own natural environment – it is simply easier for them to find nutrient-dense human food. A caloric snack stolen from a roadside dustbin in just a minute or two could equal a whole hour’s worth of foraging in the veld! Where troops have access to human food, either from waste, raiding homes and gardens or crops, their population density increases up to five times higher than that of baboons foraging naturally on fynbos.

The more baboons obtain food from humans, the more they learn to associate them with food. They also lose their fear of humans and may become very aggressive in their quest to obtain human food. This may ultimately lead to them having to be euthanised. Feeding or making food available for baboons is a death sentence for them. Never feed baboons.

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Seasonal Trends

Trends show that during spring and early summer the Peninsula baboons spend the greatest amount of time out of town as there is an abundance of natural food available in the fynbos. Towards the end of summer this drops off as the hot and dry season reaches a peak and there is less food and water available. With the arrival of the cold, wet Cape winter, there is very little vegetation growth and the baboons tend to move down the mountain for shelter and to raid for human food.

Source: Julia Wood

Foraging 3

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