Basic facts about chacma baboons

Chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) belong to the order of primates and are found in Southern Africa. They live in family groups called troops. Their habitats range from grassland and woodland scrub to semi-desert, mountain and coastal regions.

Appearance and size

The chacma baboon is the largest of the baboon species. It has a dog-like head and large canine teeth. Baboons are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females look different to each other. A fully grown male baboon may weigh between 30 and 40kg, while the more slender females weigh between 15 to 20kg. The chacma’s fur is short and coarse and varies in colour from a grey/brown to black.

What’s on the menu?

Baboons have cheek pouches in which they can store food. They are omnivores and feed on vegetation including wild fruit and nuts and small vertebrates and invertebrates. Coastal baboons will also eat mussels and limpets they find on rocks near the shore. Baboons and humans come into conflict when baboons raid crops or enter urban areas to find food.

Life in the troop

The dominant adult male in the troop is called the alpha male and he is in charge of the family. Troops consist of a complex social structure, with the females making up the troop core. Younger males move among the troops. Troop sizes vary between 30 and 100 individuals. Baboons are intelligent and adaptable animals.


Chacma baboons can breed throughout the year. The gestation period is six months, after which the female gives birth to a single infant. Baboons are very protective of their young.

Chacma baboon Facts 3

Night and day

Chacma baboons are diurnal and spend much of the day on the ground and in trees foraging for food. Plenty of time is also spent on grooming. This helps to strengthen and build bonds between troop members and remove unwanted parasites. At dusk the troop seeks a safe place to spend the night, usually in trees or on rocky outcrops.

Talking baboon

Baboons are very vocal and use a range of different sounds to communicate with one another. They use a series of grunts, screams and alarm barks to alert troop members to danger, usually the presence of a predator.

Cape baboons

There are about 550 baboons living in 16 troops on the Cape Peninsula. Baboons are also found on the Hottentot Holland Mountains and above Gordon’s Bay. Meet the Peninsula troops.

Living with baboons

With the expanding human population and shrinking of their natural habitat, conflict situations between humans and baboons are becoming more common. People living in known baboon areas must baboon-proof their homes and properly secure their waste to help keep baboons out of town. Never feed wild baboons.

Did You Know?

The Kruger National Park is home to about 300 baboon troops.

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