Tuesday, October 20


What a day. It wasn't looking hot to begin with, though the heat of the sun built up substantially, and we had to get up extra early to seek out the troop, which had "wandered" up the side of the mountain. We succeeded in finding them, and as we followed, the events of the day made this day perhaps the most exciting I've seen so far.

First, an update on the dead baby situation. Alia seemed to have returned to normal, no false-wahoo'ing, less  overt breast swelling. She might not be on good terms with some folks though, but more on that later. Unfortunately, Matilda (one of the pregnant females) gave birth over the weekend, but her baby also died. She was carrying the decaying corpse around today, though she did not appear to be as stricken as Alia had been. We believe the cause of death was probably something related to the birth, as we saw no signs of violence on the corpse.

Early in the day, tensions were high among the troop. The team has consistently remarked that the troop is a more aggressive troop than others we've seen around in various parts of the world, including right here, and the death of two infants wasn't lessening any of the strain. The big impact today was the presence of the second troop, who we could not see at first, but could definitely hear. Many wahoo's carried over the woods to our location. Aaron (alpha) and Bertrand (older adult male) responded with their own wahoo's on occasion.

Once the troop was finished with its extended sunbathing session, they walked into the woods, doubtlessly headed toward the vineyards. In the woods, the air became literally hazy with all the pine pollen being released. Hopefully this means my allergic reactions will diminish soon, as the pollen is expended. The other troop's wahoo's were heard by our troop from the edge of the woods, and from this point forward, events became a bit unclear.

Aaron became quite incensed, and began aggressively chasing one of the females. This might have been displacement aggression brought on by the other troop. Adult baboons moving at full speed are very difficult to follow, much less meticulously observe, but from what I saw, the whole troop went into a bit of a frenzy at the sight of this seemingly unprovoked aggression. When I saw Aaron a few seconds later, two females were chasing him. I followed them deeper into the forest, where Aaron was wahoo'ing at a female (I'm guessing the same one), both of them slowly climbing up the same tree.

At this point, Bertrand steps into the picture. Aaron is wahoo'ing his head off, and Bertrand is just slowly approaching, from behind me. He grunted like he would to an infant as a sign of affection. I stepped out of his way and he stopped at the foot of the tree and continued his grunting. Aaron advanced on the female through the branches. I noticed she was caring an infant, probably about a year old, and both were screaming at high pitches at Aaron.

Aaron closed within striking distance, and took a swipe at the female. Bertrand exploded. His eyes lit up and his massive old frame rocketed up the tree at Aaron. The two wahoo'd and roared at each other as they exchanged swipes. Bertrand drove Aaron up the tree until he had nowhere to go, at which point the younger adult leapt to the next tree over. Bertrand continued to threaten him, but gradually worked his way down the tree with the female and child, and went away with them into the forest undergrowth. Aaron remained in his tree for some time.

All the while, I stood there and watched the entire scene unfold. It was pretty sweet. My supervisor couldn't help but remark on the massive grin drawn across my face when I returned to report on my findings.

We talked about the event for a while. None of us could explain why exactly Aaron went apeshit. Maybe it was displacement aggression since Aaron was too far from the other troop to battle with their males, but was put on edge by the constant wahoo'ing. However, the female's child was almost certainly one of Bertrand's little entourage. There would be no reason for him to go to such lengths to defend the female and child from the alpha male unless he believed the child to be of his blood. I asked about Bertrand's grunting, which might have seemed out of place. It is most likely that Bertrand wanted to calm the situation, make everyone, Aaron and spectators alike, cool down. This is one of the major documented uses of grunts among baboons. Usually it is quite effective...

So, I had finally seen some real male aggression, up close and personal. And I saw my preferred male come out ahead. Not bad at all.

The troop continued through the woods to the vineyard, where they foraged for some time. We actually saw troop 2 several vinefields away, but a full on altercation between the groups didn't occur. Such encounters are very very rare, and I'll probably not see one before my time here is up. Today's antics were more than satisfactory to sate my desire to witness action.

What a weird day.

I keep having to push back all these entries I've been brainstorming (some since before I arrived) but when things like this happen, a lot of events get superseded. It also explains a lot of why my estimated ideal posting rate of "twice a week" has jumped to "about every other day." And even now I'm still accruing more content that I've got time to distill. I hope you like text? (I've got a lot more pictures too...)

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