chapter  XII
Baboons in South Africa
Pages 23

IF the Rev. W . Bingley44 were still alive he would find many farmers echoing his opinion that baboons are “ as tall as men, have sunken eyes, and are otherwise extremely disgusting,” for since his time their reputation as agents of destruction has increased considerably. They are reputed to tear open the stomachs of young lambs to obtain curdled milk, and are condemned for the damage that they do to cultivated farm lands. A series of amazing legends has sprung up about their pillaging expeditions. They are said to post sentinels, and to conduct their raids in a manner suggesting pre­ conceived planning of so high an order that the farmers’ counter-attacks have to be very subtly arranged. One alleged method of dealing with baboons takes advan­ tage of a belief that they cannot count above three, and proceeds as follows. When a troop of baboons is laying waste to an orchard, four men approach and frighten them away. If the four men then leave the orchard, the baboons will return immediately. If, however, two men leave and two remain hidden in the trees, the animals do not return. But since baboons cannot dis­ tinguish between three and four, one man remains hiding in the orchard and, when the animals foolishly return, proceeds to destroy them. Many tales like this, and others reminiscent of those already quoted in the first chapter of this book, are reported in Fitzsimons’ work, The Natural History of South Africa,107

Apart from their depredations there are other facts that make baboons, drills, and mandrills in some ways the most noteworthy of sub-human primates. They are the largest of the monkeys, and are even more

terrestrial than the apes, rarely being found in the forest zone, and usually living in hilly, open country. They also seem to be the most gregarious of the sub-human primates. Forbes 116 states that Dr. Slack met the Doguera baboon of Abyssinia in troops of one to two thousand individuals. All known baboon species appear to have the same social habits, living sometimes in family parties, but more usually in large hordes.