Friday, February 25

The Old Ladies Club

In the main baboon troop (but probably not your average troop), there is a small cohort of elderly baboon female folk. It is not a distinct group, but more of a spectrum which merges into the rest of the troop's females.

Gertrude and Midi spend much of their time in solitude. Gertrude in particular is usually found at one end of the troop or the other. Midi is harder to place, mostly because she is a very shy baboon, particularly around humans. And in my personal opinion, she's not much of a remarkable or interesting baboon to observe.

Gertrude is the most easily recognizable baboon in the troop. She is so old that she seems to have developed some type of bone pathology; she stands and walks with a permanent stoop. Her fur is ragged and her ears are torn, even more than usual. I think one might be almost entirely invisible, but the thing is, I never came to recognize her ears because she was so easily identifiable without them.

The connector between these two and the rest of the troop is Hilda, and without her, the group my be mistaken as actually being distinct. Then again, without Hilda, it would only be Gertrude and Midi exchanging groomings all day. The three of them form a triad, though Hilda is quite clearly the dominant of the three.

There is always an exception, however. Punzle's jaw is permanently fused out of place, and she's had so many children that her nipples and breasts can be seen as visibly uneven from possibly a hundred feet away. She is no spring guineafowl. Yet her only connection to the senior citizens of the troop is through Hilda, which indicates nothing, as Hilda is a highly ranked female, and as the beta female, she is deserving of attention from Punzle. I've never seen Punzle affiliate with either Gertrude or Midi.

Hilda is the true exception. She is a powerful memeber of the troop, probably the third ranked female. Why would she interact with the other old ladies?

When I think about the odd structure of the old lady demographic of the troop, I wonder at why some of the older females have maintained their ranks, and why some seem to have fallen off the chart. In a matrilinear system, these old females ought to have many female offspring surrounding them who would be locked into the a similar rank for life. Midi and Gertrude (in particular), appear to have almost no one.

The old ladies club doesn't seem to have any different relationship with the males. They seem to have very little relationship at all with the guys, of little surprise given the low fertility of these females (Gertrude has ceased to cycle at all). Yet, the only time I've ever seen a male herd Gertrude, it was Chester, and he made it into quite an affair. I'd never heard Gertrude make more than a couple grunts before then, and I've never again heard anything quite so desperate as Gertrude's screams.

Hilda and Gertrude are a particularly odd comparison, since I believe the two to be related. I might be totally off, but those faces are just a bit too similar for me to write off. They couldn't have the same mother, though. Then rank would follow inheritance, and they would not appear so far distant in the heirarchy. I tell you what, though. This post is nearing the length I'd like to keep it at, so I'm going to bow out of this example and give it a of its own, in a few days. It deserves it.

Regardless, Hilda does interact with the other old ladies, so maybe Gertrude and Midi were once of higher rank (I have seen female baboons fall and be ruined, in the dramatic Aristocratic sense). Or perhaps Hilda is just a magnanimous kind of baboon. Come to think of it, I just like Hilda. She isn't a shameless flirt like the young Siri, nor a raging bitch like Punzle, nor terrifying like Lottie. She might not be the best looking lady baboon out there, but she seems like a pretty decent monkey being.

1 comment:

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