You might be getting the impression from me that males are nothing but a bunch of outright jerks. You might be right. Aaron the alpha has a reputation for being a strong but kind baboon. More human personification - baboons do not have any understanding of kindness. Aaron's pure strength is what shapes his attitudes, he can afford to be calm because he knows how easily he could defeat anyone else, and the others know it too.
There are occasional times when Aaron appears to be putting on displays. Considering the ritualistic nature of the baboon wahoo battle, other symbolic displays are hardly surprising. As usual, I did not see what triggered the outburst which started the extended affair, but the results ended up being quite distressing for just about everyone.
It probably started with a female. It usually does. Then, one of the other males gets annoyed at the aggressor male for treading too far, and a male battle ensues. It happens all the time. It used to be an incredible, exhilarating event, but it everything loses its charm with time. Something needs to make the incident stand out - like a baboon falling twenty meters to solid earth.
The battle between these two males had progressed into the canopy, as is common place. Baboons are natural climbers, but tall trees are not a part of their natural habitat. They might be at a bit of a disadvantage, actually.
Dead branches are not unusual. Even the unfortunate monkey didn't appear to be much surprised when a limb cracked under his weight and he feel those twenty meters straight to the ground. The big guy landed, and without even pausing, burst forward with energy, continuing the chase as if nothing had happened. For those in need of perspective, he fell a height of at least two stories.
This guy's next move was to chase some offending female into a tree, up said tree, and out onto a branch way up at top. It was like a cinematic pirate duel onto the gangplank, where one of the fencers is pushed to the very edge, but remains clam. Except it was two baboons, and the female at the end of the branch was screaming her lungs out.
I'd be screaming. She was suspended 40 meters from the ground by a thin pine branch which already bent ominously under her weight. The gargantuan male loomed in front of her, threatening and slowly pushing her back until there was no where she could go, and even then continuing his advance. Her cries died down after about ten minutes or so, maybe from losing her voice. One false slip and she was done for. She did almost fall several times, which is no surprise since he kept her up there on the tip of the branch for half an hour. Of course, these monkeys don't exactly have anything better to do with their time.
Later, I was able to determine that the baboon was Aaron. In these fights and chases, the action is so quickly paced that one can seldom identify anyone. I've gotten comfortable with identifying all of the adults, particularly the males, but during a fight, I'd need to be very close, uncomfrotably close in order to identify them.
Once tempers had cooled, everyone came down from the trees and continued to forage. Aaron appeared to have no injury whatsoever. It was just another part of the daily routine.
Gibraltar Neandertal research featured in the New York Times Magazine