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February 8, 2011 / Dan Whipple

Crazed baboon goat murderers explained

University of Pennsylvania primate researcher Dorothy Cheney was kind enough to respond to my question about whether killing baby goats was unusual behavior for baboons.

She wrote, “I, too, have heard that baboons are now killing goats. This was a recent source of great friction between the Maasai around Amboseli [National Park in Kenya] and the scientists working there on the long-term baboon project (which has now been going for more than 30 years).

“The killing of small ungulates by baboons is not at all unusual. In Botswana (where we work), baboons regularly kill baby impala, bushbuck, reedbuck, etc. What is unusual is that baboons would kill kids that are being tended by humans. When we worked in Amboseli in the 1970s and 1980s, baboons always ran from Maasai. Their recent willingness to approach goats and kids that are being tended by humans is definitely a recent phenomenon, and it seems likely that it’s due to drought, food scarcity, and possible climate change.”

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