The Spatial Ecology of Chacma Baboons (Papio ursinus) in a Human-modified Environment
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Anthropogenic habitat alteration can have a dramatic effect on the spatial distribution and ranging patterns of primates. We characterized the spatial ecology of a free-living troop of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in a human-modified environment in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. We used GPS and behavioral observations collected over 1 yr to quantify the troop’s home range size, habitat selection, choice of sleeping site, and foraging patterns. The troop comprised 115 individuals living in a home range of 9.50 km2, giving a density of 12.1 baboons/km2. Area use correlates positively with exotic vegetation and negatively with indigenous vegetation and altitude. The troop spent significantly more time in low-lying human-modified environments, i.e., plantations, vineyards, and urban habitat, than in indigenous vegetation that was largely restricted to steeper slopes at higher elevations. The troop slept exclusively in exotic trees, 94% of which were located in the plantation, 3% in urban habitat, and 3% in vineyards. The most consumed food items were exotic grasses, subterranean food items, and exotic pine nuts. The survival and persistence of the focal troop in close proximity to the urban edge while ≥3 neighboring troops were previously extirpated suggests that access to low-lying land in conjunction with a land-use practice that does not preclude baboon presence has been fundamental to both their survival and persistence at such a high density. The almost exclusive use of exotic vegetation both as a food source and as a safe refuge for sleeping highlights the ecological flexibility of baboons, but the systematic loss of low-lying productive land poses the single greatest threat to their continued persistence on the Cape Peninsula.
KeywordsAnthropogenic habitat alteration Chacma baboon Habitat use Home range Seasonality
The research complied with protocols approved by the ethics committees of the University of Cape Town, South African National Parks and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and adhered to South Africa legal requirements. We thank South African National Parks for permission to conduct fieldwork in the Tokai plantation and for their assistance with data collection and analysis. This study would not have been possible without the efforts of our long-term assistants Shahrina Chowdhury, Nitin Sekar, Kathryn Tarr, Mandy Gibson, and Susan Lin, and short-term assistants Christina Moseley, Matthew Lewis, Megan Laird, Christopher Mills, Alicia Thomas, Stacey Jordaan, Charine Collins, Abigail Joustra, Liezel Tolmay, Chloe Botha, Jonathan Aronson, Brionie Benchley, Glenn Moncrieff, Jacqui Stephenson, Anne Ketley, and Robert Skelton. We thank Nicholas Lindenberg for his extensive help with the GIS analyses and Dawit Yemane Ghebrehiwet for his extensive help with the statistical analyses. We thank the residents of Tokai for providing anecdotal information. We thank Ross Cowlin for technical assistance, and the members of the Baboon Research Unit at the University of Cape Town for their assistance and insightful discussion. Finally, we thank Joanna Setchell and 2 anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions on earlier versions of the manuscript.
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