Hamadryas are a species of the baboon family. It is the northernmost baboon in existence, native to the Horn of Africa and the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It provides a convenient habitat for this species with fewer predators than in central or southern Africa, where other species of baboons live. The Hamadryl baboon was sacred to the ancient Egyptians and appeared in various guises in the ancient Egyptian religion, hence its alternative name “sacred baboon”.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Hamadryl

Photo: Hamadryl

Baboons are one of 23 genera of Old World monkeys. In 2015, researchers discovered the oldest fossil of a baboon, dated 2 million years ago, was recorded in the Malapa area in South Africa, where the remains of Australopithecus were previously recovered. According to genetic studies, baboons diverged from their closest relatives 1.9 to 2.3 million years ago.

There are five species in the genus Papio:

  • hamadryas (P. hamadryas);
  • guinea baboon (P. papio);
  • olive baboon (P. anubis);
  • yellow baboon (P. cynocephalus);
  • bear baboon (P. ursinus).

Each of these five species is native to one of the five specific regions of Africa, and the hamadryas baboon is also part of the Arabian Peninsula. They are one of the largest non-hominoid primates. Baboons have existed for at least two million years.

Video: Hamadryl

The established classification from five forms probably does not sufficiently reflect the differences within the Papio genus. Some experts insist that at least two more forms should be recognized, including the tiny baboon of the genus (P. cynocephalus kindae) from Zambia, Congo and Angola, and the gray-footed baboon (P. ursinus griseipes) found in Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

However, current information on the behavioral, morphological and genetic diversity of baboons is too scarce to make a correct decision. The ancient Egyptians considered hamadryas to be the reincarnation of the god Babi and revered as sacred animals, in addition, the god Hapi was often depicted with the head of this baboon. Although now there are no wild hamadryas anywhere in Egypt.

Appearance and features

Photo: What a hamadryas looks like

Photo: What a hamadryas looks like

In addition to striking sexual dimorphism (males are nearly twice the size of females, which is common to all baboons), this species also exhibits differences in adult coloration. Adult males have a distinct silver-white coat (mane and mantle) that begins to develop at about ten years of age, while females are uncloaked and brown all over. Their faces range from red to brown and even dark brown.

The coat of the males is greyish-brown, with the abdomen colored like the back or darker. The hair on the cheeks becomes lighter, forming a “moustache”. Long hair on the back is wavy. In some animals, the skin can be very colorful. In both males and females, the skin around the ischial calluses is pink or bright red. Males have a similar skin color on the muzzle, while females have a muted greyish-brown face.

Males can measure up to 80 cm in body size and weigh 20–30 kg. Females weigh 10–15 kg and have a body length of 40–45 cm. The tail is curved, long, it adds another 40–60 cm to the length and ends in a small but graceful tuft at the base. Infants are dark in color and lighten in about a year. Hamadryas reach sexual maturity at about 51 months for females and between 57 and 81 months for males.

Where does the hamadryas live?

Photo: Hamadryas in nature

Photo: Hamadryas in nature

Hamadryl is found on the African continent in the southern Red Sea region in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia, South Nubia. This species is also native to Sarawat in southwestern Arabia. The range of the baboon covers both Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The latter populations are often found in close association with humans, and although they are considered endemic to this region, they were probably introduced there by chance at some moment at the height of the ancient Egyptian empire. This species is part of the closely related species of African baboons.

An interesting fact: Baboons hamadryas are found in desert, steppe, alpine meadows, on plains and in savannahs. Their distribution is limited by the presence of waterholes and associated rocky areas or cliffs.

In parts of Ethiopia, they are found in agricultural areas and are considered crop pests. Hamadryas are often found in the mountains, rising to a significant height. In each group there are 10-15 old large males. Herds are constantly moving. All animals are mostly on the ground, but also very skillfully climb steep rocks and cliffs.

Hamadryas rarely climb trees. The dimensions of the hamadryas house vary depending on the quality of the habitat and the location of the rocks. The maximum home range is about 40 km². The daily range of baboons ranges from 6.5 to 19.6 square meters.

Now you know where the hamadryas live. Let’s see what this monkey eats.

What does the hamadryas eat?

Photo: Hamadryly

Photo: Hamadryly

Papio hamadryas is an omnivore that eats the roots of plants and small animals (snails, worms and insects), looking for which it turns over stones. Sometimes plantations are attacked. Due to the aridity of their habitat, these baboons must feed on any edible foods they can find.

One of the feeding adaptations that all baboons are believed to have is the ability to feed on relatively low quality foods. Hamadryas can subsist on herbs for long periods of time. This allows them to exploit dry terrestrial habitats such as deserts, semi-deserts, steppes and grasslands.

They are known to eat a variety of foods, but are not limited to:

  • fruits ,
  • insects,
  • eggs;
  • acacia seeds;
  • acacia flowers;
  • grass seeds;
  • herbs;
  • rhizomes;
  • roots;
  • reptiles;
  • tubers;
  • small vertebrates, etc. .

Hamadryla lives in semi-desert areas, savannas and rocky areas. They need rocks to sleep and find water. During the rainy season, they eat a variety of foods. During the dry season, hamadryas eat Dobera glabra leaves and sisal leaves. The method of obtaining water also depends on the time of year.

During the rainy season, the monkey does not have to go far to find pools of water. During the dry season, they often visit up to three permanent watering holes. Hamadryas often rest at the waterhole in the afternoon. They also dig holes for drinking at a short distance from natural bodies of water.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Hamadryas Monkey

Photo: Hamadryas Monkey

Hamadryas are very social animals that have a complex layered structure. The basic unit of social organization is the dominant male, the leader who aggressively controls one to nine females and their offspring. Community members forage together, travel together, and sleep together. Males suppress aggression between females and maintain exclusive reproductive access to mature females. One group can include from 2 to 23 animals, although the average is 7.3. In addition to the male leader, there may be a subordinate.

Interesting fact: Two or three groups (harems) come together to form clans. Clan males are close genetic relatives. Clans form close-knit groups for food. Leading males inhibit any attempts by children to interact with animals of the same age in different groups.

Males restrict the movement of females by visually threatening them and grabbing or biting anyone who goes too far. Females show certain preferences in relation to males and they take these preferences into account. The less a female approves of the men in her harem, the more likely she is to be captured by a rival.

Young males may start their harem by persuading immature females to follow them, but may also kidnap a young female by force. Aging males often lose their females, losing their weight in the harem, and their hair color changes to brown.

It used to be that female hamadryas lost contact with the women of the harem they left. But more recent research suggests that females retain a close bond with at least some females. They can spend just as much time with other women as they do with harem men, and some females even interact outside of harems. In addition, females of the same natal group often end up in the same harem.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Hamadryas Cub

Photo: Hamadryas Cub

Like other baboons, the hamadryas breed seasonally. The dominant male of the group performs most of the mating, although other males may occasionally copulate as well. Females have some choice in partners. They usually leave their natal group between 1.5 and 3.5 years of age. Females have an estrous cycle of 31 to 35 days. During ovulation, the skin of the female’s perineum swells, warning the male of her potentially fertile condition. The mating frequency can be between 7 and 12.2 per hour when the female is receptive.

Fun fact: The gestation period lasts about 172 days, after which the female gives birth to one young. A newborn weighs between 600 and 900 g and has a black coat, making it easily recognizable among older children. Babies are completely dependent on their mother for the first few months until they start eating solid food and can walk on their own.

Puberty occurs between 4.8 and 6.8 years of age in males and around 4.3 years of age in females. Full size is reached in men around 10.3 years of age. Females, which are significantly smaller than males, reach adult size at about 6.1 years. The average interbirth interval in females is 24 months, although there are cases of offspring born after 12 months. And some did not give birth until 36 months after the birth of their previous cub.

The average duration of lactation is 239 days, but the timing of weaning may vary depending on the condition of the mother, environmental variables and social circumstances. Lactation can last from 6 to 15 months. The period of childhood dependence is difficult to assess. Since this species is social, juveniles may continue to communicate with their mothers until they separate at or near adulthood.

Most of the parental duties are performed by the female. Females nurse and care for their offspring. It happens that one female in a harem often looks after the offspring of another female. As is the case with all baboons, babies are very attractive to other members of the social group and are the focus of intense attention. The males provide protection to the babies while maintaining control over the harem.

Males exclude other males from contact with their offspring, potentially inhibiting infanticide. Other than that, adult males remain vigilant towards the entire group and therefore can detect potential predators, protecting their young from this particular threat. Men tend to be very tolerant of babies and teenagers in WMD and often play with them or carry them on their backs.

Hamadryas’ natural enemies

Photo: Female hamadryas

Photo: Female hamadryas

Natural predators have been virtually eliminated from much of P. hamadryas’ range. However, the high levels of social organization observed in hamadryas are thought to be indicative of past predators. Living in groups undoubtedly helps animals defend against predators by increasing the number of adults to repel attacks.

Interesting fact: Alarmed by the appearance of potential predators, the hamadryas raise a deafening howl and, having climbed the rocks, begin to roll down the stones for protection.

Since groups and clans tend to congregate just before reaching a watering hole, a place where predators can hide, such a function seems likely. In addition, the desire of these animals to sleep on elevated rocks. The explanation for this sleeping device is that it prevents predators from accessing the hamadryas. The presence of sleeping places in hard-to-reach areas seems to be the main limitation of the range of these animals.

The most famous predators include:

  • leopards (Panthera pardus);
  • striped hyena (H. hyaena);
  • spotted hyena (C. crocuta);
  • Kaffir eagle (Aquila verreauxii).

Hamadryas are common in irrigated agricultural areas and can be terrible crop pests. These are large animals that often behave aggressively when confronted with people. Because these primates are prey, they form an important link in local food chains, making the nutrients they get from plants and small animals available to larger animals. They dig up tubers, roots, and rhizomes, so it is likely that these animals help aerate the soil where they feed. In addition, they play a role in the distribution of seeds, the fruits of which they eat.

Population and species status

Photo: What a hamadryas looks like

Photo: What a hamadryas looks like

The transformation of fields and pastures is the main threat to the hamadryas baboon. its only natural predators — striped hyena, spotted hyena, and African leopard that still live in its distribution area. The IUCN listed the species as “Least Concern” in 2008. Hamadryas are not currently threatened by major widespread threats, although locally they may be threatened by habitat loss from — for major agricultural expansion and irrigation projects.

Interesting fact: The total population in Djibouti is estimated to be around 2,000 animals and is stable. The species is listed in CITES Appendix II. A “pure” subpopulation of this species occurs in the Simien Mountains National Park. In addition, the species is found in the proposed Harar National Wildlife Refuge as well as northern Eritrea.

Hamadryas are found in Yangudi Rassa National Park, Harar Wildlife Sanctuary and a number of other reserves in the lower Awash valley (although it is important to note that all Awash reserves are affected by agriculture). This species inhabits Ethiopia in large numbers. Their numbers may even have increased due to a decrease in natural predators and small-scale agriculture.

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