Following baboons can be riveting work. Sometimes. Other times I follow a baboon and she comes to camp and decides to take a lengthy nap in an obscure place and I get to play the fun game of Where’s the Baboon?, like I’m six years old watching PBS. So, now it’s your turn. Where’s the baboon?
I have seen bush pigs before, but they are always running away, so I’ve never gotten a proper sense of just what it is that they are. Then, a couple days ago while searching for baboons, I saw a fuzzy sort of thing in a jungly bit of forest and crept closer to see if it was a baboon. It was not. It was three bush pigs. And I nearly soiled myself. Bush pigs are absolutely gianormous—terrifyingly so—and I was only 10 feet away from a little group snuffling around in the undergrowth. I backed slowly away and they, being pretty darn blind, must have thought I too was a baboon because they didn’t startle and run the way they normally do. Once I stopped thinking I was about to be killed (an irrational thought since these ones bolt rather than charge), I managed to get a picture of one. So, for your slightly blurry viewing pleasure, I present:
Unfortunately, all of you who have diligently studied the recent baboon family trees I published will need to make some alterations. Yei, a rather nice older baboon, and her little 5-month daughter, Yoani, have died. It’s not entirely clear what happened to Yei, but I noticed one day that she was very sick, walking with her back arched, a possible symptom of having eaten something bad (i.e. trash, metal, etc.). We worried about her, but unfortunately there’s not much we could do. The next day, she was nowhere to be seen. It was particularly depressing to think about her little baby, still very dependent, stuck with her dead/dying mother. No matter what, we knew Yoani would not survive without her mother, but it’s a bummer to think about the specifics of it all. But there is a hero of this story. Yalimu, Yei’s teenage son, clearly found the distressed infant with his mother’s body and, rather than leaving her, picked her up and carried her for days. We found him holding Yoani constantly–grooming her, grunting at her–making every effort to protect and care for her. But, alas, he can’t lactate, and that’s really what Yoani needed most, so she too died. A sad end for Yei and her clan, but it was nice to see yet another example of how baboon families–like human families–take care of their own.