Wildlife TV

Learn interesting and funny plant and animal facts with videos and photos

Jackie: The South African baboon soldier

I like to post on the Wildlife TV Facebook page interesting animal facts in the form of “Did you know..?” as often as possible. Today my little fact was the following:

“Did you know that.. A baboon called Jackie became a member of the 3rd South African Infantry Regiment during  World War I?”

As soon as I posted it I realised that I had to tell more about this story than just the above line.

Somehow this “little” fellow named Jackie does not have his wikipedia page or any relevant information about his life, adventures and achievements and I feel the need to share his crazy, but true, life story.

The story starts in August 1915, almost 100 years ago, in the Marr’s family farm in Villeria, Pretoria, South Africa.

Jackie the Chacma Baboon poses with Albert Marr in uniform for the South African Infantry during World War IJackie, the protagonist of our story, was a Chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) found by Albert Marr on his farm that soon became their beloved pet.

When World War I started many young men got enlisted and Albert was no exception. He got attested for service at Potchefstroom in the North West province of South Africa as private number 4927 for the newly formed 3rd (Transvaal) Regiment of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade  on the 25th August 1915. At the time he approached his superiors and requested Jackie to go with him and (surprisingly) got their permission.

Once enlisted Jackie was given a special uniform complete with buttons. a cap, regimental badges, a pay book and his own rations.

Although at first the other members of the regiment just ignored him, he soon became the official mascot of the 3rd Transvaal Regiment.

And if you think he was there just to eat and fool around you are very wrong!
When he would see a superior officer passing by he would stand to attention and even provide them with the correct salute.

He would also light cigarettes for his comrades in arms and was the best sentry around due to his great senses of hearing and smelling which allowed him to be able to detect any enemy long before any of his other army mates could even notice their approach.

And he wasn’t just a well taken care of pet, away from the actual battle, Jackie spent three years in the front line amongst the trenches of France and Flanders in Europe.

During the Senussi Campaign on 26 February 1916 in Egypt, Albert Marr got wounded on his shoulder by an enemy bullet and Jackie stayed beside him until the stretcher bearers arrived, licking the wound and doing what he could to comfort his friend.

Later on, in April 1918 both privates got injured in the Passchendale area in Belgium during a heavy fire.

As the explosions surrounded them, Jackie was seen trying to get some protection by building a little fortress of stones around himself. Unfortunately he didn’t manage to finish his little safe area and was hit by a chunk of shrapnel from a shell explosion nearby which also injured Albert. Jackie’s right leg got seriously wounded and was later amputated by Dr RN Woodsend. Both privates made a full recovery and shortly before the armistice Jackie got promoted to corporal and awarded a medal for valour.

Jackie, the Chacma Baboon poses for a photograph with his other army comrades on the South African Infantry in uniform and saluting during World War I

On the end of April Jackie was officially discharged at the Maitland Dispersal Camp, Cape Town, South Africa, while wearing on his arm a gold wound stripe and three blue service chevrons indicating three years of frontline service. He was also given a parchment discharge paper, a military pension and a Civil Employment Form for discharged soldiers.

After this crazy adventure Jackie returned to the Marr’s family farm where he lived until the 22nd May, 1921.  Albert Marr lived until the age of 84 and died in Pretoria in August 1973.

And here is the story of this peculiar Chacma Baboon that due to his curious life ended up as the only monkey to reach the rank of Private of the South African Infantry and fight in Egypt, Belgium and France during World War I.

Jackie the Chacma Baboon private from the South African Infantry greets a young girl in his uniform during World War I

Hope you liked this little known fact.

Até à próxima!



If you liked this entry, make sure you check out our Mammals category.
Previous Mammals entries:
Elephants avoid a full moon when being naughty
What perfume to wear on an African safari
Baby animals: How do they survive? Giraffe & Nile Crocodile

How do baby Chacma Baboons survive?

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 baboon (Papio ursinus) family. Male, female and baby monkey.

Chacma Baboon male, female and infant.
Photo Credit

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?

Female Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus) with baby monkey

Female Chacma Baboon with infant.
Photo Credit

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?

Baby Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus) being silly

Baby Chacma Baboon
Photo Credit


I hope you liked learning about the amazing world of baby baboons.
Do you want to find out how baby impalas and other animals survive?
Check out our “Series” page for the list of “Baby Animals: How do they survive?


Até à próxima!

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