Integrating Hugo & Ellliot – two baboons
Integrating baboons in not always that easy, especially if you work with a pretty characteristic set of individuals. For example there is Stumpy who misses his right front arm and starts to run around the enclosure from time to time chasing his own knees. We have Batista who is really human focused and grabs rocks or branches and starts to lip smacks at you while holding this object in front of his penis. Mercy, a female that can we the nicest of all, or she changes into a cold hard bitch. Cornelius & Cherry the two big males who most of the times try to prevent me from doing my work. They make me run sometimes, they make me stand in the burning sun for hours because they won´t let any baboon come close to the night enclosures. And then there are some other baboons and they are just all very typical.
This troop consist of 8 males and 5 younger females. Ideally you want more females, but if you don´t have any you just have to deal with this. Unfortunately this troop is a non-releasable troop. The reason behind it is that this troop does not form a cohesive group structure with the right individuals. Furthermore there are not enough females (which is most likely also a cause of the non-cohesive troop structure) and many of these baboons show either stereotype behaviour, are really human focused or lack social skills.
Therefore it is always a challenge to get new baboons integrated into the troop because the individuals are unpredictable. In total it took me two months to integrate both Hugo & Elliot at the same time. Hugo is a one year old baboon that was being sold at a house somewhere in Lilongwe. Elliot, a two year old baboon, was captured at a local market and he was clearly being held as a pet. Both victims of the illegal pet trade here in Malawi, which is becoming a serious problem nowadays. First Elliot & Hugo needed to become friends. This took long and actually to be honest they never ever got to that comfortable ‘lets groom each other’ point. But after some time they managed to live with each other which made it easier for me to bring in individuals from the troop. Slowly they met almost everyone. It took long, they had fights, they screamed, they made friends, however I saw both Hugo and Elliot progressing in their behaviour. Elliot the blunt I just go for it type of baboon, became more cautious and Hugo the shy and quiet one started to stand his ground. Still Elliot was far ahead of Hugo. And Hugo’s confidence was just not good enough for his age. This is clearly the result of not growing up with other baboons, still Elliot did not either and even though he is almost a year older and held as a pet his confidence is clearly stronger.
I decided to continue the integration and not treat Hugo with any type of naturopathic remedy in order to boost his confidence. I wanted to see how the troop would respond, so I could learn more about these typical baboons. This would give me a good indication of how the troop function during an integration, which can make future integrations perhaps slightly easier.
Before doing such an integration it can be wisely to get individuals that potentially can cause problems, out the troop. Therefore I removed the two big males Cornelius and Cherry out of there. After removing them I literally opened the slide for Hugo and Elliot and set them free in their new big outside enclosure. Elliot ran directly into the middle of the enclosure. Hugo however stayed around the night enclosure and other baboons came over to see what was going on. This caused problems since Hugo got cornered. He freaked out completely with all these other baboons and started to jump up into the electrical fence. He electrocuted himself multiple times and didn’t know what to do except for screaming and trying to get out of the enclosure. Stumpy came over and started to chase him. I noticed straight away that he was not fast enough and Stumpy grabbed him and Hugo flew through the enclosure. Elliot however managed to run away from some baboons that started to chase him and he was not electrocuting himself so he would probably manage. To make it easier for Hugo I managed to get Stumpy out of the group. After an hour or so, Mercy started to chase him and she became very aggressive towards him. Hugo decided to hide himself in a water pond and was almost drowning himself. With a broom I managed to scope him out of there, hoping that he would run to trees and hide somewhere over there. It was interesting to see that so many baboons reacted completely different to the new bees when they were actually released. Almost all baboons that had positive interactions with them in the night enclosures started to chase and threaten them at some point. The ones that had no interaction or negative interactions with them in the night enclosures, backed both Hugo and Elliot up in the outside enclosure.
Before putting back the big males, I want Hugo and Elliot to become more comfortable in their new enclosure. This way they will identify spots to hide and the real bonding can start.