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Factors mediating inter-group encounters in savannah baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus)

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image of Behaviour

Inter-group encounters among baboons range from peaceful to aggressive. During 23 months we observed 110 inter-group interactions involving four groups of chacma baboons in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Results supported the hypothesis that male behavior functions to prevent extra-group males from gaining access to sexually receptive females. Males were more likely to chase females in their own group when estrous females were present, and their chases targeted estrous females more often than expected. Males also chased members of the opposing group more when estrous females were present. When estrous females were absent, male displays were shorter in duration, involved fewer participants, were less intense, and were more likely to result in peaceful mingling between groups. The alpha male was the individual most actively involved in inter-group chases and displays, but males of all ranks participated, especially when they were in consort with a female. However, males did not cooperate in group defense. While behavior during encounters was affected by the presence of estrous females, the outcome of encounters was affected by location and rival group identity. Groups were more likely to approach and displace opponents in the core of their range and more likely to retreat in the periphery. Correcting for location, we also found some evidence for an inter-group dominance hierarchy based on the relative number of males.


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