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Predatory Behavior of Yellow Baboons

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1. A group of 32 yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) in the Masai-Amboseli National Park, Kenya, caught and ate 45 vertebrate prey items during 2519.19 hours of observation. 2. Eighty percent of the prey items were mammals and the most frequently eaten species were African hares (Lepus capensis), vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) and neonate gazelle (Cazella granti and G. thomsoni) in that order. The details of predatory behavior for each prey species are described. 3. Rates of predation were significantly higher during the long dry season than during other months of the year, although no correlation was found between total monthly rainfall and monthly rates of predation. A lognormal model however provided a good fit to the monthly rate of predation data suggesting that the rate of predation by Amboseli baboons was affected by several factors that acted multiplicatively with respect to each other and were themselves related to rainfall or dryness. 4. A mean of 2.3 individuals fed directly from the carcass of each prey item. A mean of 3.5 individuals per prey item fed directly or indirectly, i.e., on scraps, from each carcass. In general, both the number of individuals who fed from each carcass and the duration of their feeding bouts was dependent upon the gross body size of the prey item. Adult males fed directly from the carcass of prey items for about three times more minutes than expected from their number in the group; other classes of individuals fed directly from prey carcasses for only one-fourth as many minutes as expected. In general, an adult male would be expected to feed on each category of vertebrate prey at least once per year, while individuals of all other age-sex classes would be expected to feed on most prey categories only once every two years. 5. The most frequent social behavior around prey items was agonistic bouts; no cooperation, simultaneous feeding or specific begging gestures were observed. 6. Estimates of the total number of prey killed annually by Amboseli baboons indicate that baboon predation probably has a negligible effect on prey populations other than vervet monkeys. 7. It is speculated that the need for vitamin B12 underlies baboon predatory behavior, and perhaps that of other primate species as well.

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Psychology and Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., U.S.A.


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