Baboons in a Mashatu

Mechanic Wolhuter didn’t actually have to do much, thankfully, and my 28 year old vehicle is again purring like only she can. She’s been amazing reliable all this time, never having broken down on my properly. Only once did I have to walk home when a badly worn tie rod end eventually gave in. That reminds me, I’ve currently got one that’s niggling. Need to change it.

I took the old girl back into the bush this afternoon, or rather she took me. Mission, to film baboons heading in to their roost. I needed it backlit as they climbed into their bunk beds for the night. The sun was still a way up when I found some baboons close to the roost, but they kept running away from me? I was on the Majale River where the river does a long curve and the outside bank has a very high vertical wall that even baboons can’t climb. With each flood the bank erodes away with large chunks of the wall tumbling into the flooded waters. Several baboons were sitting on the edge of the bank plucking away at the delicious green devil thorns. They’d given up on the flowers, the thorns providing far more nutrition. These rather tasty ‘nuts’ are about 10mm in diameter with a number of spikes sticking out from all directions and at the moment they’re still green and soft. Once they dry out, that’s when they take on the true meaning of their name. They become incredibly hard and now matter what way up they lay on the ground there’s always at least one prick waiting to attack any soft foot that comes by. The spikes are presumably for protection to stop them being devoured before they can germinate next season, but surprisingly many animals don’t seem to care. Even in the dry season baboons eat these hard spiny ‘nuts’. Guineafowl are known to eat only these towards the end of the dry season. Those spikes aren’t really a deterrent for these guys. They must have a larynx of steel.

As I approached these baboons on the edge of the bank, they ducked down out of view but still clinging to the top. I could just see their fingers hanging on. Who knows how long they could have hung there, but feeling sorry for them I carried on and watched behind me as they pulled themselves back over the lip. These definitely weren’t the baboons I’d worked with last year. Further north I found my guys and just so cool to park amongst them as they went about stuffing themselves with more and more devil thorns. Their tummies were huge and with the sun setting they weren’t wasting any time stocking up for the night. These guys were so far off the script. The sun had set and still they were stuffing themselves. It was only when almost dark that they took to the trees. For the last week or more they’ve been roosting in a Mashatu tree further south, but today they were back at their old roost, probably because the other troop were close by. Suddenly my ideas of filming baboons in a Mashatu tree where I wouldn’t see a damn thing, changed when they scooted up the bare branches of their old Acacia albida for the night. With the tree bare, it provided perfect silhouettes of the baboons bedding down and the big pool below the tree was now also catching the last light of dusk. From what looked like and promised to be a non-event, I now had something really cool to work with. And baboons bedding down for the night is no peaceful affair as one would expect. There’s lots of bickering and pushing for the best bed. Lots of screaming and of course while those are teetering around in the higher branches others still manage to mate up there, joining the mile-high club…



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