Impala and Baboons are often found together. They rely on each other's senses to warn of danger. With the new grass on our beach, the Impala are spending many of their days here, and the Baboons - who are always on the beach just after dawn and just before sunset - sometimes join them in the heat of the day too.
Baboon society is highly complex and hierarchical, and predominantly female-orientated (how very wise!). Observing the social dynamics in this large troop can be very interesting, although it can sometimes be difficult to work out what on earth is going on between the different members. I spent a good hour watching this troop below the house, and trying to follow the interactions between all the different individuals.
There are at least four very new babies in this troop, which is the one which roosts near our well. There is another troop of baboons that roosts in the big trees up near Hippo Bend, and yet another troop that sleeps in the trees opposite the house on the other side of the river. This mother (above) seems to be lovingly watching her baby as it suckles. As you can see, when baboons are very young, they have black fur.
Another mother baboon, with her baby clinging on underneath her stomach, walks between two fine young impala rams.
Another slightly older baby has already learnt to use the shade provided by its mother's body to keep cool.
This baby may not be the most stylish of riders...but it certainly beats walking!
The mothers with small babies seem to be very popular among the rest of the troop, particularly with the other females. Here you can see two mothers (second left and far right) with two other adult females in attendance. Although both babies are still very young, the one on the left is slightly older and already more adventurous than the tiny one suckling its mother on the right.
The slightly larger baby seems quite fascinated by the smaller one.
An adult female tries to grab the tiny baby from its mother (above and below).
The mother walks off with her baby hanging on underneath her, but the other female is still trying to snatch the baby. The older baby wisely opts to return to its mother too (at the top of the photo, above).
Grooming the mothers of the small babies (and being groomed back by them) seems to be a prized occupation and they receive a lot of attention from the other female baboons. The tiny baby is somewhere in the middle of the front group (above). The other small baby looks on while its own mother is busy grooming.
As a female on heat (you can tell by the size of her backside) approaches on the right, the mother of the tiny baby grabs it to her. The other mother keeps an eye on her little one from behind, but leaves it be.
In close pursuit of the female on heat, a large dog baboon comes over to the group of females (above).
Incredibly, the slightly older baby (belonging to the mother at the back), jumps onto the male and clings underneath him, in the same way it would normally ride its mother. Even more surprising, is the fact that the mother, enjoying a grooming session from another female, seems totally unconcerned by this, although she is watching closely.
The dog baboon walks through the group of females, still with the baby clinging to him.
When the dog baboon sits down to the left of the group, the baby dashes back to its mother. None of the other baboons seem in the least perturbed.
Only the baby glances back warily at the dog baboon.
Still keeping an anxious eye on the big male, the baby ventures out again, heading towards the smaller baby who is also starting to become a little braver and leaving its mother's side.
The mother of the tiny baby keeps a close eye on her little one. The mother of the other baby is still far too engrossed in her pampering session to observe her baby.
Now the dog baboon heads back towards the females and the two small babies.
The larger baby rushes back towards its mother, as the dog baboon reaches out to pick up the tiny baby, again without any objection shown by the mother.
The dog baboon smells the baby, presumably to work out whether it is his offspring or not.
The baby is then rather unceremoniously dumped back on the ground.
The dog baboon resumes his interest in the female on heat.
He mates with the female (in front of the children, no less!)
The other female is still trying to snatch the tiny baby from its mother.
Poor little thing is holding onto Mum for dear life!
Then, all of a sudden the other female settles down to groom the mother, and the dog baboon starts grooming her. If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours....
Finally the troop starts to move off into the bushland at the river's edge. These two mothers with their babies in tow follow the gang....and I drag myself away from this "cinema of the wild" and get back to work!