Hanging with Baboons; Gang Culture in The Gambia

Some may be aware of the events that occurred on the trip to The Gambia earlier this year. I enjoy wildlife photography, but the usual suspects in a drowned camera was a troop of boisterous baboons. Maybe they didn’t appreciate my limited skills, and this was revenge of the primates?

Wildlife photography; A troop of baboons in The Gambia, west Africa on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-31-1_baboons

Teenage tantrum?

I was understandably traumatised by the loss of my constant companion, but now it’s been replaced, my post traumatic stress disorder is beginning to wane.

The event has been formally resigned to the past bad experiences bin. It seems right to recall a more pleasant encounter with a troop of these large, mischievous monkeys.

Wildlife photography; A troop of baboons in The Gambia, west Africa on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-17_baboon_troop

Breakfasting together

My guide had recommended a dawn start to find the early rising baboons foraging for food, so it was out before breakfast to catch the troop enjoying their breakfast.

As predicted when we did come across them, many were industriously searching for something to eat. Though on closer inspection there was plenty of other activity, some were studiously grooming, young baboons were playing and the adolescents were doing what teenagers everywhere seem to do.

Wildlife photography; A baboon foraging for food in The Gambia, west Africa on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-26-1_playing_baboons

Gangs of The Gambia

Wildlife photography; A baboon foraging for food in The Gambia, west Africa on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography

Finding breakfast

They’re like any bunch of delinquents, hanging around on street corners, bored and just looking for trouble. Feisty, and disrespectful, they chased each other around, picking fights with each other. If the opportunity arose they weren’t adverse to testing the adults patience, generally being a nuisance. Torment their grumpy elders, or any other viable target before running away to a cacophony of indignant screeches.

Their boisterous antics in the dry earth kicked up small clouds of dust. They chased each other around, or teased their older troop mates, tiny dust devils drifted around their feet, catching the wind, and carried around on the faintest breeze. Sometimes they raced to the sanctuary, of a nearby tree,  escaping the wrath of the  particularly aggrieved.

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Baboon on the run

This is gang culture, baboon style and nothing escaped their mischievous attention. There was also a goat tied to a tree, the obnoxious youngsters teased it mercilessly, taking great pleasure in chasing it around. It was impossible not to feel sorry for the poor, tethered creature, unable to escape its tormentors.

The alpha male was left in peace however, none seemed keen to test the mood or disturb the day of the biggest, baddest baboon in the troop.

The baboons were generally unfazed by our presence, merely going about their business, and allowing me to take plenty of pictures. There was one moment where the alpha male possibly feeling I’d gotten a little too close to a tiny youngster, faced up to me momentarily. The large monkey did not seem too aggressive, and my guide advised me to hold my ground. This I did, taking the opportunity to get a few close-ups of the ‘boss’. It was a storm in a teacup, and having made his point he soon ambled off to find a young lieutenant, eager to stay in his good books by grooming him.

Wildlife photography; The alpha male baboon being groomed in The Gambia, west Africa on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography

Grooming time

Wildlife photography; An alpha male baboon foraging for food in The Gambia, west Africa on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-14_alpha_baboon

Staring me down

We spent around 30 minutes in the company of the troop, before leaving to enjoy our breakfast. I’d like to describe it as leaving them in peace, but as we departed the young hooligans, continued their raucous behaviour, upsetting a young mother with her child. This sparked outrage from the rest of the troop, and all hell let loose, we could still hear their protests as we sat down to breakfast at Mandina Lodges several minutes later.

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Cheeky monkey

Wildlife photography; A mother and baby baboon in The Gambia, west Africa on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography

Mother and baby

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Comments 6

  1. Deborah Thompson

    Great post, Iain! Made me laugh and remember my experiences a few months ago in Bali with the Crab Eating Macaques of the Alus Kedaton Forest. I’ll be putting together a photo essay of this experience as well; when I do I hope you will come to check it out & leave me a comment. One of the large males jumped on my head and I thought he was going to pull my hair out, but he was content to just startle me and then leapt from me onto my husband’s head. We still laugh about it!

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      Iain

      Thank you Deborah, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. I’ll try and keep an eye out for your post, it sounds like you have some funny experiences to relate yourself.

  2. Beth

    Loved seeing all the baboon photos! Also glad to see that they all look relatively unharmed by tourists and others passing through.

    Hong Kong has free roaming macaques in certain areas, but sadly they all have pretty bad battle wounds from cars and poachers passing through the area.

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      Iain

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Beth. I don’t think these are troubled by tourists much at all, or the locals. They really don’t seem to suffer from cars too often, not sure about poachers of course.

  3. Dave Cole

    Really funny post! I ran into a troop of anibus baboons in Ethiopia a few weeks ago at Lake Langano. I too was surprised at how close they let me get to snap some shots. Unfortunately, I just missed capturing one of them relaxing on the lounge chair outside of our bungalow.

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      Author
      Iain

      Cheers Dave, glad it gave you a few laughs. We all miss the odd shot, as long as we’re ready with a camera in hand most of the time however, we’ll get more than we miss.

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