Hamadryas problems at Saudi Arabia

2015.07.23 20:36

The Anubis, Yellow, Chacma and Guinea baboons are found only in Africa, the Hamadryas baboons (Papio Hamadryas) live on both shores of the Red Sea, ranging from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia across the water to the semi-arid mountains of Yemen (especially Jabal Bura) and Saudi Arabia.

The British geneticist Bruce Winney and his research team to conclude that from their work, the baboons likely crossed from Africa to Arabia between 130.000 and 440.000 years ago.

In Saudi Arabia nowadays live ca. 350.000 baboons, first of all in the Sarawat Mountains, north from the border with Yemen for roughly 800 kms, parallel to the Red Sea coast.

Generally we connect in our mind the cliffs and water with the Hamadryas Baboons.

The most famous city of Baboons is Taif at ca. 1.900 meters altitude in the Sarawat Mountains.

In the region, beside the Makkah-Medina four-lane Highway sit on the rocks and cliffs the Hamadryas males and females, adults and their kids: juveniles, infants and babies... and of course, they wait for the drivers, the foods – although great sign shows for the people: “Do not throw food for the animals”.



An Hamadryas Baboon male in general controlled two to eight females and their infants. The male try to prevent a female from straying by trucking her tail (as the mom baboon takes her baby's tail too). This behavior – told Ahmed Boug (director of Saudi Arabia’s National Wildlife Research Center, 2012) in Matthew Teller's article – is different from that of African male baboons, which fight each other for females. It is an adaptation to the arid circumstances, weather. “Herding their females takes less energy than fighting another male to win them back.” (You can read the total Teller-article here: https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/201206/the.happy.ones.htm) Conservation of energy is priority.


Around 65% of Saudi Arabia’s baboon population is really wild; the rest live in and around towns and cities, particularly Taif. These baboons consume human foods – this process started ca. 30 years ago and the rapid development has overtaken the environmental issues (lot of leftover comes from the restaurants, bakeries and the baboons eat these). Of course, these interventions have consequences. In the wild a baboon troop stands from 120 animals, but in these troops live more than 800 individuals. With less need to search for food, they roam smaller areas: 7-8 square kilometers; in the wild this is 40 km2.

This results in crowding, which causes social stress. The males are unable to keep order in their increasingly oversized OMUs, the “floating females” mate with unattached males, moreover, they acquire more females. Unfold a kind “anarchy”.

The overfeeding is shortening the interval between births too, which compounds the overcrowding.


Photo: Birds of Saudi Arabia


The human foods include lot of salt, fat, sugar and emulsifier, so the baboons will have health problems, in any case increased levels of intestinal parasites. The process is bipolar, because the more illness can spread to humans from the baboons as the tuberculosis or bilharzia (it is a chronic disease, endemic in parts of Africa and South America, caused by infestation with blood flukes (schistosomes)).

And of course, the baboons stealing crops (especially fruits, vegetables) around Taif, damaging fences and other structures (e.g. cars, vehicles), but may the baboons throw rocks to the cars/humans.


Otherwise, south side of Taif (Wadi Liya) are all the elements of a baboon habitat unite. “The valley is steep-sided, with rocky cliffs, smaller wadis and springs nearby that channel water to where a dam has created a lake.” The baboons can eating wild acacia fruit and succulent roots of the prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana) too.


More interesting details: https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/201206/the.happy.ones.htm