Returning to Lajuma

On returning to Lajuma I was looking forward to seeing all the local primates again, including the humans. I got a lovely welcome from Sam, Katy and all the assistants but it was not all good news. Unfortunately, the habituated baboon troop had been missing for almost a month. As the weather was so unusually wet, cold and misty for the time of year they had gone to the sunnier side of the mountain. Although I wished they were closer to home I didn’t blame them at all. Hiking for hours in the mist and rain looking for baboons and finding no sight, sound or sign of them was very frustrating. Especially for primate assistant Morgane, who arrived at the end of February to work with the baboons and had yet to see them. We were particularly keen to locate the troop as it was close to the time when Lobelia’s GPS collar was due to fall off and we had the vet, Adrian, out to try and dart her so the collar could be retrieved. The troop did return to Lajuma for one night at the time and slept on the cliffs just above Bush Camp. We were all excited, hoping for a successful darting the next day. However, baboons have a very good memory and Lobelia remembered Adrian. Although he tried to change his appearance she wasn’t fooled and was not keen on letting him get close enough to get a clear shot with his dart gun. The baboons then entered a property on the north of the mountain where we were not able to follow them and Lobelia’s collar fell off a few weeks later and was lost in the bush.

Can you see any baboons?

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Nope, neither can I.

In between hiking each day searching for the baboons, I busied myself with following samango monkeys, doing phenology and with the mammoth task of tidying the data sets.

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Steve, the House Troop male samango, enjoying a lime.

Morgane and I persevered looking for the baboons and after 6 weeks of avid searching we found the troop foraging on the slopes of Mount Lajuma. They had returned with the onset of the warm and sunny weather. I was pleased to be able to recognise them all again, even the young ones who had grown up in the 18 months I’d been gone, but sad to see some old faces were missing. They have been ranging closer to Lajuma ever since and despite being dragged through the densest, thorniest vegetation I’ve ever had to crawl through in Bergplaas and a close encounter with an angry leopard, I’m happy to be back babooning.

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Bandit has also settled in well at Lajuma and has made friends with the Bush Camp cat, Maya and a tortoise and is enjoying being an African predator keeping mice and insects out of my tent.

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All in all, it’s good to be back.

– Caroline Howlett, PPP Primate Research Coordinator

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