Not for sensitive viewers: a vicious Baboon assault

It was the afternoon of the 16th of August 2021 and Joubert and I were parked on the shores of Sunset Dam, just outside Lower Sabie in the Kruger National Park, enjoying the serene scenes playing out all around us as a myriad of birds and animals, including a troop of Chacma Baboons, mingled at the water’s edge.

Baboons peacefully foraging on the shore of Sunset Dam

Suddenly there was a frightful commotion as the baboons started screaming in alarm. Almost immediately we noticed a young baboon, shrieking to high heaven, being chased by two slightly older “teenage” baboons. This in itself was not abnormal, as there is often disagreements in a baboon troop, and peace usually returns quickly after the necessary discipline has been dispatched. The young baboon rushed into the muddy water at the dam’s edge, eliciting even more worried squeals from its mother as Sunset Dam is home to some monster crocodiles.

However, as soon as one of the “teenage” baboons got hold of the youngster, it was clear that this attack was much more sinister. We have no idea about their motive, but judging by the viciousness of their bites to the skull, neck and throat and the very rough way they tried to pull the younger baboon apart limb from limb, there was no doubting that the two teenagers were intent on killing their unfortunate target. At one stage early into the encounter an adult, perhaps the mother of the younger one, tried to intervene but this proved only a temporary reprieve – instead of running away the badly injured youngster tried to hide in the mud again where he was soon cornered once more.

By now the attack had gone on for about four minutes. Probably as was to be expected, the fracas attracted the attentions of a large crocodile that was hitherto lying dead still on the bank. With the tables likely to be turned on them within a second, the attacking baboons let go of their quarry and ran for safety.

The youngster that was so viciously mauled also scampered away, heading over the road towards the Sabie River, and out of our sight. His attackers apparently also lost track of him, as they searched every bush in the general vicinity looking for the young baboon without success.

One of the murderous baboon “teenagers” passing by us as he looks for their victim. (photo by Joubert)

Whether the little one could’ve survived its injuries we’ll never know, nor whether the murderers managed to track him down and finish the job… This definitely was one of the most harrowing experiences we’ve ever had in the bush.

 

27 thoughts on “Not for sensitive viewers: a vicious Baboon assault

  1. T Ibara Photo

    Hello Dries,
    Thank you for sharing so honestly. You are right, this is a harrowing account, and perhaps it hits even closer to home, because there is something very “human” about it. I can imagine it was quite an experience for Joubert as well. We hope the little guy made it safely back to his mother. Again, thank you for the candid account – and reminding us that nature is always complicated.

    Hope you and your wife are staying safe and well.

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  2. Writer Lori

    Wow, that was a harrowing chronicle! Do you have any idea what would make the teenagers attack so viciously? And I wonder what happened to the little one afterwards…could it return to the troop again?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We have no idea at all what caused the attack, Lori. It seemed to just happen “out of the blue”! Of course not knowing the reason for this attack it would be difficult to opine whether the young baboon would be able to return to the troop. I hope at least it could reunite with its mother.

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  3. Michael Sammut

    I wonder if this is a rare or regular event. Truly interesting from an animal behavior point of view. Harrowing from an emotional point of view (unfortunately, too human like behavior).

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We’ve literally seen thousands of baboons over the years of visiting our wild places, Michael, and while baboons often quarrel amongst themselves, sometimes physically, we’ve never seen anything anywhere near as violent, determined and protracted as this while spending time with them.

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  4. scrapydo2.wordpress.com

    Genade maar hul was wreedaardig teenoor die jonger outjie. Nogal heel menslike optrede is dit nie. Ek het met my skoolhou by privaat skool gesien hoe wreed sulke jong lummels is teenoor n swakker leerling. As hoof nie tussenbeidr gekom het sou hul die kind beslis gedood het. Dit herinner my ook aan n keer dat n meisie by my in klas kom skuil het. Die meisie wat haar gejaag het het later n baksteen gehad waarmee sy die meisie wou kap. Gelukkig het ek en van die groter seuns die aanvaller afgeweer. Polisie het later die kwaadwilliger buite skoolgrond opgelaai en weggevat. Sulke bobbejane( dis nou regte bobbejane wat jul gesien het) is ook baie geniepsig as hul in n groep is.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Liewe aarde, Ineke – dit is verskriklik om te dink sulke tonele speel af in ons skole!

      Ons het al genoeg bobbejane gesien om te weet dat hulle gereeld onder mekaar redekawel, mar hierdie was op n ander vlak.

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