Twenty-five Minutes in the Life of a Baboon Baby

Impressions of an encounter with an almost newborn baboon baby in the Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Twenty-five minutes of fascination and compassion.
Baboon baby sucking- Steppenpavian - Gelber Pavian (P. cynocephalus)

It's not easy to take sharp photos with tears in ones eyes.

Amboseli Nature Reserve, Kenya. A troop of baboons besieged our road. We stopped. First we noticed two particularly large baboons. They examined our Land Cruiser and looked straight into our eyes through the open windows. Meanwhile another baboon tried to conquer our car and climbed onto our hood. We shooed him away. Then two more baboons approached. They were females. Both carried their offspring under their bellies.

Is there anything cuter than a baby baboon? One of the babys appeared to be very young – its fur was still sticky from what appeared to be birth fluid. It reached for its mother’s breast and sucked. Were these its first gulps? As if spellbound, I watched this intimate moment and felt richly rewarded by Mother Nature.

I wasn’t the only one watching the little one drink. The other baboon mother was also interested and took a close look at the newborn.

After the baboon curiosity was satisfied, it was back to baboon routine. And first and foremost is the grooming. While the baby drank, the mother was groomed by the other one. That must be nice!

The grooming baboon discovered something on the baby. I redirected my camera. Then I also saw it. The baby’s leg was injured.

Just a few seconds ago, my baboon world was a place of rosy cuteness. Now, tears shot into my eyes. How can nature be so cruel? I continued to take pictures, but my images became blurred.

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” 

Destin Sparks

After some time, the baby had quenched its thirst and it was ready to discover the world. It crawled away from its mother. She let her little discoverer go.

The baboon baby clumsily dragged its left leg behind. It squat on the road, looking to a point of interest. The other, slightly older baby baboon came closer.

Did the other baboon baby take the injured one into its arms? Was this a gesture of comfort? Or am I imposing my human ideas on this moment? I don’t know. But I was overtaken by a wave of compassion and I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat.

While his mother eat some green grass at the roadside, the other baboon mother took care of the little one. First she inspected the injury again. Then she went on to her favorite activity, lousing.

During the first month, a baby baboon remains in very close contact with its mother. She carries the baby next to her belly while holding it with one hand. The bond between the two is deep. It can even go so far that baboon mothers hold dead babies under their bellies and carry them around.

Females are usually the primary caretakers of the young. Several females share the duties for all their offspring. For about a year, the young are cared for and, perhaps most importantly, they are never alone and always well protected.

We drove on. I looked back for a long time until the baboons were out of sight. Driving back, a few hours later, the baboons had moved on, including the injured baby.

Later we informed the park rangers about the small injured baboon baby. I hoped they will send out a vet to take a look at it.

Do you have any questions? Then I am looking forward to read your comments.

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