African Primates- Baboons, Gorilla, Monkey

Africa hosts 51 primate species in habitats varying from forests to savannah woodlands. Out on safari the most common primates you will see arebaboons & monkey

Primates of Africa

With the exception of humans, who inhabit every continent, most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia

Baboons, vervet monkeys and chimpanzees are not dependent on trees and can survive in savannah and sub desert areas.

Primates have complex social organizations and the majority live in female-bonded groups.

A common feature among primates is evolution of the “primate hand.” This is a opposable thumb that is used for climbing and eating, and tool making in the case of

Baboons and apes have well-developed dexterity of the hand with the tips of the thumb and fore finger meeting at right angles.

In apes, the dexterity of the hands is very close to that of humans –and chimps are a good example.

Grooming is useful for social bonding and is effected by use of the mouth and hands.

The apes are a category of primates represented in Africa by gorilla, chimpanzees and bonobo. Genetically, they are the closest primates to man


General – excellent climbers, primates are characterized by a complex brain, good vision and means of grasping.

Found throughout southern Africa – typically found in riverine vegetation and acacia trees. Also found in our garden and house where their diet tends towards bread and fruit from the kitchen. What a way to earn a crumb?

Description – Vervet monkeys are long-legged, long-tailed, omnivorous monkeys.
The vervet monkey is light coloured with a black face; males have a pale blue scrotum. This monkey weighs between 5 and 9kg

Behaviour –Dominant males will exaggerate their status by walking with a swagger and squatting with obvious ostentation. Monkeys are generally social, though they exhibit occasional rivalry.

When attempting to intimidate a rival, a monkey stands at its tallest, with the effect that it looks bigger than it really is. They move about in trees by running along the branches on all fours

Troop Size –Moving in troops of about 20, they feed on young shoots, seeds and fruit but occasionally will eat insects and birds eggs


General The Chacma baboon are gregarious animals, occurring in troops of about 50 or more, sleeping, traveling, feeding and socializing. A troop can consist of 7 to 8 males and roughly twice as many females, juveniles and infants.

Baboons are the best adapted of the terrestrial primates and as such they are the most widespread African primate

Characteristics –Intelligent and crafty, they can be agricultural pests, so they are treated as vermin rather than wildlife.

Description –Nearly one-half the size of adult males, females lack the male’s ruff (long hairs around the neck), but otherwise they are similar in appearance

Breeding – mating is frequent at very short bursts usually only about 15 – 20 seconds. They breed at any time of the year and their gestation period is about 6 months. The basic unit is a harem – one dominant male surrounding himself with a number of breeding females

Diet –A baboons’ menu include grasses, flowers, fruits, seeds and shoots. In the dry season, they uproot grasses and feed on the underground stems, a niche they share with no other mammal except warthogs. Baboons will also supplement their diet with vertebrate prey: fish, lizards and young of ground nesting birds, and bird or crocodile eggs

Adult male baboons like exposing their genitals to impress or maybe intimidate other males

Daily Life – the days begins about 7 or 8 am when they come down from their sleeping places in cliffs or trees. The day starts off with adults grooming each other while the juveniles play.

Forming a cohesive unit they will move off in columns of two or three, walking until they begin feeding. Fanning out, they feed as they move along, often traveling five or six miles a day. They forage for about three hours in the morning, rest during the heat of the day and then forage again in the afternoon before returning to their sleeping places by about 6 p.m.

Behavioral Characteristics

Baboons use over 30 vocalizations ranging from grunts to barks to screams. Non vocal gestures include yawns, lip smacking and shoulder shrugging. Lastly more time is spent on mutual grooming – a crucial aspect to forming bonds among individuals as well as keeping the baboons clean and free of external parasites

Baboon Society is a strictly disciplined one. Each member of the troop knows his status and ruled over by an elite group of elders.

Any member of the clan who tries to usurp another’s position is taken to task by the dominant males who gang up against the offender resulting in an explosion of screaming nd squawking

The degree of dominance among ruling members of the clan is shown by the angle at which they hold their tails: the higher the angle, the more dominant the male.

Enemies & Defense Strategies –baboons are fierce fighters and in a group can confront and scare off predators such as leopard.

Males may confront predators like leopards or cheetahs by forming a line and strutting in a threatening manner while baring their large canines and screaming.

Bush Baby

Characterised by its loud, shrill cries at night similar to a human baby. Bush babies have large, round eyes for good night vision and bat like ears that enable them to track insect prey in the dark.
A powerful leaper, the bush baby pushes off with its powerful hind legs and holds its arms up, leaping more than 6 meters.

Life Expectancy – 14 years in captivity

Behaviour –They are active only after sundown. Look for these elusive tree creatures high up in trees. They spend their days in hollow trees and forage among the treetops at night for insects and fruit. Very agile in trees but awkward on the ground, hopping in a frog like fashion. They are usually solitary, but may group together to form small and temporary communities. During the day, they hide to avoid harm from eagles and large snakes

Bush babies consist of about 18 species found in Africa – of which there are 2 types : the lesser bush baby and the greater bush baby

Scroll Up