International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 1004–1020 | Cite as

The Effects of Permanent Injury on the Behavior and Diet of Commensal Chacma Baboons (Papio ursinus) in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

  • Esme K. Beamish
  • M. Justin O’Riain


Primates may suffer injury from both natural (fights with conspecifics, predators) and human-induced (snares, power-lines and guns) causes. Though behavioral flexibility may allow primates to compensate for injuries, permanent disabilities, such as the loss of a limb, may adversely affect both foraging and locomotory efficiency and ultimately the survival and fitness of individuals. In the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, members of the chacma baboon population (Papio ursinus) experience chronic levels of conflict with humans that manifests in high levels (15%) of disabled baboons in groups that overlap with residential areas. In this study we investigate the potential impact of such disabilities by comparing the behavior and diet of disabled baboons with uninjured baboons matched closely for age, sex, and social status from groups of a similar size and composition for 8 mo, from May to December 2005. Disabled baboons spent more time resting and traveling and less time feeding than uninjured baboons. Disabled and uninjured baboons had similar diets but the former consumed fewer food items with high handling costs and fed more on high return foods than the latter. There was no difference in the frequency of grooming or social vigilance behaviors, as might be expected if disability had compromised either competitive ability or predation risk. Further, there was no difference in the survival of disabled or uninjured individuals in each group. Together these results suggest that while permanent injury may affect the behavior and diet of Peninsula baboons, that these constraints may be offset by access to anthropogenic food sources and the lack of natural predators. Disability in baboons may lead to obligate raiding of high-return anthropogenic foods, which is an important challenge for the ongoing management of this population.


chacma baboons commensalism permanent injury 



We thank the South African National Parks for permission to conduct this research within the Table Mountain National Park and for support from Sanparks Veterinary Wildlife Services and the wildlife veterinarian Dr. Hamish Curry. The field work was made possible by the assistance of Damiana Raviasi, Tanya Rodriguez, and Catarina Rato. We thank the baboon monitors for their assistance in locating the groups. This research was approved by the University of Cape Town, South African National Parks, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and adhered to the legal requirements of South Africa. We thank the reviewers and the editors for their comments and assistance in editing this manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zoology DepartmentUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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