Chacma Baboon
Chacma Baboon
Common Name Cape Baboon
Range Africa
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Primates
Family Cercopithecidae
Genus Papio
Species Papio ursinus
Conservation Status
Least Concern
The Chacma baboon (Papio ursinus), also known as the Cape baboon, is, like all other baboons, from the Old World monkey family. It is one of the largest of all monkeys.

Located primarily in southern Africa, the chacma baboon has a wide variety of social behaviors, including a dominance hierarchy, collective foraging, adoption of young by females, and friendship pairings. These behaviors form parts of a complex evolutionary ecology.

In general the species is not threatened, but human population pressure has increased contact between humans and baboons. Hunting, accidents, and trapping kill or remove many baboons from the wild. This has reduced baboon numbers and disrupted their social structure.

Physical description

The chacma baboon is perhaps the longest species of monkey, with a male body length of 50–115 cm (20–45 in) and tail length of 45–84 cm (18–33 in). It also one of the heaviest; the male weighs from 21 to 45 kg (46 to 99 lb) with an average of 31.8 kg (70 lb). Baboons are sexually dimorphic, and females are considerably smaller than males. The female chacma weighs from 12 to 25 kg (26 to 55 lb), with an average of 15.4 kg (34 lb). It is similar in size to the olive baboon, averaging slightly higher in mean body mass, and of similar weight to the more compact mandrill, the males of which weigh on average about 1 kg (2.2 lb) more than a chacma baboon, the females weigh 3 kg (6.6 lb) less than the female chacma. While the mandrill is usually crowned the largest of all modern monkeys, going on total length and average (but not maximum) body weight between the sexes, the chacma baboon appears to be the largest extant monkey. The chacma baboon is generally dark brown to gray in color, with a patch of rough hair on the nape of its neck. Unlike the males of northern baboon species (the Guinea, hamadryas, and olive baboons), chacma males do not have a mane. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this baboon is its long, downward-sloping face. The canine teeth of male chacma baboons have a mean length of 3.86 ± 0.30 cm at the time they emigrate from their natal troop. This is the time of greatest tooth length as the teeth tend to wear or be broken thereafter.

The three subspecies are differentiated by size and color. The Cape chacma is a large, heavy, dark-brown, and has black feet. The gray-footed chacma is slightly smaller than the Cape chacma, lighter in color and build, and has gray feet. The Ruacana chacma generally appears to be a smaller, less darkly colored version of the Cape chacma.


The chacma baboon inhabits a wide array of habitats including woodland, savanna, steppes, and subdesert, from the grassy alpine slopes of the Drakensberg to the Kalahari desert. During the night the chacma baboon needs hills, cliffs, or large trees in which to sleep. During the day water availability may limit its range in arid areas. It is found in southern Africa, ranging from South Africa north to Angola, Zambia, and Mozambique. The subspecies are divided across this range. The Cape chacma is found in southern South Africa; the gray-footed chacma, is present from northern South Africa, through the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique (south of the Zambezi), to southwest Zambia; and the Ruacana chacma is found in northern Namibia and southern Angola.


The chacma baboon is omnivorous with a preference for fruits, while also eating insects, seeds, grass, smaller vertebrate animals, and fungi (the desert truffle Kalaharituber pfeilii; at the Cape of Good Hope in particular, it is also known for taking shellfish and other marine invertebrates. It is generally a scavenger when it comes to game meat, and rarely engages in hunting large animals. One incident of a chacma baboon killing a human infant has been reported, but the event is so rare, the locals believed it was due to witchcraft. Normally, chacma baboons will flee at the approach of humans, though this is changing due to the easy availability of food near human dwellings.

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