Lightning storms are rare in South Africa, at least around Cape Town. But, when they happen, they are some of the darned impressivest sights I've encountered... as most sights tend to be when they are transplanted into the environment of the Cape of Good Hope.
google search for more slick pics.
Anyway, point here is that most people miss these experiences because they come at inopportune times of day. Like, say, 5 in the morning, when I get up to go to work. So sometime I get a surprise lightning storm to enjoy while eating my breakfast in the dark.
By the time one reaches the baboons in the field, the clouds are usually clearing up, and there's not much chance left of a good thunder storm.
Once in a while, things turn a bit wild and the tablecloth slips over the mountain into the city and forests, filling the sky with clouds, and sending sheets of rain down upon us. Baboons prefer to huddle in the rain, sometimes in clumps, sometimes alone.
Lightning appears to be a different story. The rain began first, and the huddling began, but was quickly interrupted by a couple blasts of thunder.
The troop erupted into screams and shrieks. It sounded like the reaction to two troops had collided head on, and were tearing each other to pieces. All was chaos, females running for shelter, juveniles calling for their mommies and tearing about distraughtly. And the males running about intensely because they're males and they got reputation to be holding up.
The lightning wasn't that close, honestly. Maybe a couple of miles. I've heard thunder with the troop before, and no reaction was elicited. The volume of the clap and the brightness of the flash were obviously more powerful than I'd seen before, but I'm curious what throws them over the edge, into this state of frenzy.
Furthermore, I wonder why the baboons care so much about a little thunder. The greatest danger seems like it would be a fire. It would certainly make sense for them to run away from the lightning, as that would be the source of any wildfire that might form. But their reaction seemed a bit extreme for that, why the panic and screaming? On the other hand, this is just a single datum, so maybe Aaron or Janny decided to freak out, chase females, and make a big deal out of no big thing.
So... I'm back.