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The Baboon is the largest non-hominid member of the primate order. In modern scientific use, only members of the genus Papio are called baboons, but previously the closely related Gelada and two species of Mandrill and Drill (now classified in genera Theropithecus and Mandrillus) were grouped in the same genus, and these monkeys are still often referred to as baboons in everyday speech. Papio belongs to family Cercopithecidae, in subfamily Cercopithecinae.
All baboons have long dog-like muzzles (cynocephalus = dog-head), close-set eyes, heavy powerful jaws, thick fur except on their muzzle, short tail and often brightly coloured ischial callosities. Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in savanna, open woodland and hills across Africa. Their diet is omnivorous, but usually vegetarian - they are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They can raid human dwellings and in South Africa they have been known to prey on sheep and goats.
Baboons live in hierarchical troops of 5 to 250 animals (50 or so is common), depending on species and time of year. They can live as long as thirty years.
Their principal predators are man and the leopard, although they are tough prey for a leopard and large males will often confront them.
There are five recognised species of Papio, although there is some disagreement about whether they are really full species or subspecies. They are P. ursinus (Chacma Baboon, found in southern Africa), P. papio (Western or Guinea Baboon, found in Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea), P. hamadryas (Hamadryas Baboon, found in north-east Africa and into south-western Arabia), P. anubis (Olive Baboon, found in central African savanna) and P. cynocephalus (Yellow Baboon, found in Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia). Many authors distinguish P. hamadryas as a full species, but regard all the others as subspecies of P. papio and refer to them collectively as "savanna baboons"; even between Hamadryas Baboons and the neighbouring savanna populations there is a stable zone of hybridisation.
There is considerable variation in size and weigh depending on species, the Chacma Baboon can be 120 cm and weigh 40 kg while the biggest Guinea Baboon is 50 cm and weighs only 14 kg, in all baboon species there is pronounced sexual dimorphism usually in size but also sometimes in colour or canine development.
The Hamadryas Baboon was a sacred animal to the ancient Egyptians as the attendant of Thoth, and so, is also called the Sacred Baboon.
- Hamadryas or Sacred Baboon, Papio hamadryas
- Guinea Baboon, Papio papio
- Olive Baboon, Papio anubis
- Yellow Baboon, Papio cynocephalus
- Chacma Baboon, Papio ursinus
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