By now I believe we’ve established that baby animals are cute and no one can deny it. You might even remember that on my first entry about baby animals I presented a study that showed that viewing cute animal pictures increases work performance.
Humans in particular seem to be very fond of viewing and interacting with babies of various species, particularly mammals. These furry little creatures are born with certain traits that evoke an emotional response in us and their species. That response can be maternal, paternal or fraternal and triggers a need to protect and care for the infants.
Humans are known to adopt animals of other species as pets and from our own species as family members but we are not the only mammals that do this deliberately.
Some baboon species kidnap and raise feral dogs as pets in certain areas of the world. This peculiar behaviour has been already documented on video and it’s quite interesting to look at.
Chacma Baboon Infants
Chacma Baboons (Papio ursinus) are the largest monkey species in South Africa. They usually live in the savannah in big groups called troops composed of several males, females, juveniles and infants. Baboons in general can be quite aggressive and dangerous and male baboons are known to have canine teeth longer than a lion’s canine teeth which can be quite a scary experience.
But back to the topic, why are chacma baboons so special? How do chacma Baboon infants survive?
Despite their ferocious and aggressive behaviour towards members of their own species, these African monkeys display a very unusual behaviour; they have been observed adopting orphan baby monkeys from their own group and caring for the young as their own. This is an extremely uncommon behaviour for any animal.
Why would an animal use their own resources to provide food, shelter, protection and groom an infant that shares almost no genetic similarity with them? What can they possibly gain from this?
It seems that the best explanation is that these baby monkeys will serve as “guinea pigs” for future parents. The adults can train their parental skills on infants that are not related to them and when they have their own offspring they will be more equipped to deal with any problems and dangers thus ensuring that their own bloodline survives.
For the majority of orphans from any other species, once the mother passes away the young has little to no chances of survival. Lactating females won’t allow them to nurse to make sure that their own infants survives, the group won’t protect them and they will have no one to groom or shelter them during cold nights. Most animal orphans will last a few days before dying of starvation, disease or cold if they are not preyed upon before.
Chacma baboon newborns are lucky in that aspect. Even if they do lose their mother, chances are they will be adopted by another member of the troop, either male or female, and be taken care of until old enough to fend for themselves.
And it is easy to see why they would choose to adopt an orphan baby monkey.
How could you say “no” to a face like this?
Impalas (Aepycerus melampus) are one of the most successful animals in the entire African continent. In fact, there are around 2 million impala in Africa and they have many reasons for this accomplishment, one of which we already discussed in this blog, their countershading. But camouflage is not the only reason why these African antelopes are far from extinction and today we will explore another reason for the success, their mating and reproductive strategies.
Just like many other mammals, impalas have a breeding season called the rut. It is during the rutting, that starts around April/May just at the end of the rainy season and lasts around 3 or 4 weeks, that males will fight for the opportunity to maintain a harem and mate with as many females as they can. During this time countless males face each other in strenuous battles for the right to conceive and pass on their genes but only a few will succeed.
You see, there will be so much activity, either fighting or mating, that within 2 weeks the vast majority of the female impala are already covered even though the males are still fighting amongst themselves.
After their gestation period of around 6 to 7 months, impala ewes will start giving birth to their young and because the majority of them got pregnant within 2 weeks of each other, they will also drop all their lambs within 2 weeks of each other.
So suddenly we’ll be able to see thousands and thousands of baby impalas all around the savannah. And we won’t be the only ones to see them, adult predators will also know exactly what’s coming. In fact, some predators are known to give birth around the same time as impalas because they will have assured meals to provide for themselves and their young.
During this time there will be so many impalas around that it will create a “crash in the market” effect. There will be too many for the predators to kill and consume thus ensuring the survival of at least half of the new impala population.
So the impala lambs’ survival technique unfortunately does not involve the survival of individual members of the group like in the case of the chacma baboons but they ensure that the species survives as a whole.
And with this nice impala family photo I say farewell.
I hope you enjoyed reading about today’s African babies. If you would like to check out the previous entries for other babies’ survival techniques feel free to browse our “Series” page.
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