Chacma Baboon

A chacma baboon makes eye contact with the camera.

Chacma baboons are frequently encountered on safari, from Cape Point to Kruger Park.

Chacma Baboon
Scientific Name:
Papio ursinus
21-45 kg (M) 12-25 kg (f)
50–115 cm
Mating Season:
Throughout the Year


Chacma baboons are one of the two most common primates found in South Africa, and are very sly creatures who frequently terrorize holidaymakers and locals in South Africa. Their fur is a pale shade of brown, and covers their whole body from their tails to their heads in very consistent fashion, with the exception of their faces, which are a brown-black color and are not covered by hair. They are also known for their huge canine teeth. Chacma baboons are some of the longest and largest species of monkey found in Africa, with males reaching weights of 21 to 45kg (46 -99lb) and females around 12 to 25kg (26 to 55lb).


Chacma baboons are distributed exclusively throughout Southern Africa. They are found throughout Namibia’s treacherous deserts and vast arid regions, towards the Greater and Little Karoo's and fynbos areas of the Cape provinces of South Africa in the western half of Southern Africa. on the eastern side, they can be found throughout Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique, starting from the very south of Zambia, right down to the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The only major region they cannot be found in Southern Africa is the majority of Botswana’s southern desert regions; the Kalahari, although they do inhabit some parts of the area.


Chacma baboons, although exclusive to Southern Africa, are very common, labeled as 'of least concern' by the IUCN red list. Their populations, population densities and population trends all indicate and prove the status label given to this thriving species. In some areas, population densities may reach numbers as high and plentiful as 3 – 4 individuals for every square kilometer of land. The population trend among local populations is stable for the majority, with the only decreases in their numbers occurring in agricultural areas where their presence is not welcomed by farmers.


This species is very adaptive and occurs in a vast number of habitats within Southern Africa. They can be found in woodland, savanna and bushveld areas of northern South Africa, in addition to fynbos parts of the Cape and sub-tropical areas of KwaZulu-Natal. In Namibia, they have some difficulty finding suitable areas within a habitat to establish themselves, due to their daily need for water. Predation is the main thing they watch out for when deciding on a tree or shelter to live in, and the reason why they are more common in some areas.

Social Organization

Chacma baboons, being a sub-specie of the savanna baboon, organize themselves into groups called troops. These troops vary in size and can be anywhere from 8 individuals to over 200, but are typically comprised of around 30 to 40 baboons. Males and females can be found in such a group, usually in the ratio of 1 male for every 2 or even 3 females, with young making up nearly half of the total. Young are further divided into groups of siblings or young from the same male, along with their mothers. These baboons are not territorial animals, but do have home ranges in which they stay of 400 or even 4000 ha, depending on the state of the environment and the troop.

Social Behavior

Baboons, like many other primates, are quite social creatures. They have a number of different vocal ways of communicating, along with the visual behavior that usually accompanies it. They can often be seen exploring new areas or objects near rest camps in the Kruger National Park, such as cars driving past, or simply foraging upon luscious lands full of fruit trees during the cooler hours of the day. They often socialize by grooming one another, thereby keeping up their hygiene and health through the removal of ticks and fleas. Young cling to the backs or abdomens of their mothers when a troop moves from one place to another.


Baboon females reach sexual maturity between the age of 4 ½ to 5 years, during which they start to ovulate every 36 days or so. They typically only start conceiving a year after this, when they become more desirable mates for male members of the troop. Males start the process of mating by first identifying females in heat and ready to mate through scent or the bright color the now swollen genitals of the female become. Copulation is quite a quick process, with the only personal thing about it being that some females prefer certain mates over others. Gestation lasts for around 6 months, and females can mate again about a year to a year and a half after this.

Anti-Predator Behavior

Baboons aren’t the largest or most ferocious creatures to be found in Africa, and thus they are inevitably faced with the challenge and threat predators pose to their survival. Lions, leopards, hyenas and sometimes caracals are their typical enemies, although baboons never go down without a fight. Their battles are most often fought with leopards, who, like baboons, occupy trees for shelter. These quarrels can sometimes be heard during the night when males howl as a form of alarm call, and hiss and scream when encountered by a leopard and faced with the task of protecting the troop.

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