Vulnerability To Predation in Baboon Populations

In: Behaviour
Guy Cowlishaw(Department of Anthropology, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK

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This study investigates patterns of predation in Papio baboon populations across Africa. Using anecdotal reports collated from the primate and predator literature, the following analyses are conducted. First, the primary predators of baboons are identified. These are shown to be the terrestrial carnivores; in order of importance leopards, lions and hyena. Second, patterns of large felid predation on baboons are investigated in detail. In terms of prey selection, leopards are more likely to take (1) adults than juveniles and (2) males than females. While lion attacks are strictly diurnal, leopards will attack during both the day and night. However, both predators are usually limited to conducting attacks when and/or where visibility is limited. Leopards were about twice as successful as lions at hunting baboons. Nocturnal leopard hunts were more successful than diurnal hunts when twilight cases were excluded; in relation to this, leopard attacks at sleeping sites were more likely to end in prey capture than attacks at waterholes. Finally, patterns of baboon retaliation against predators revealed that males are more likely to retaliate than females and that such behaviour effectively deters predators. Males are particularly aggressive towards leopards, where in 4/11 cases the leopard was killed. These results may help to resolve a number of outstanding controversies regarding the nature of predation risk in baboons, indicating that diurnal predation is a substantial threat, that males are effective at deterring several predator species, particularly leopards, and that predators will successfully attack and capture males.

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