Early this morning, the interns headed out for a baboon-walk with Lale’enok’s baboon expert, Sisco. A typical walk with Sisco and the Empaleki troop, Lale’enok’s resident baboon troop, usually entails a short walk from one of the troop’s sleeping sites along the river to one of the feeding sites outside camp. Sisco knows every one of the 89 baboons in the Empaleki troop by name and can identify numerous different behaviors both by observation and by the sounds the baboons are making. Most walks include seeing the troop feed, play, and groom each other.
The interns were in for a big surprise today, however, when Sisco tracked the troop all the way across the Olkiramatian Road to a feeding site North of where the troop had ever traveled to before.
Sisco explained that Empaleki troop has a home range which they will defend from any neighboring baboon tribe. Within this home range are several sleeping sites where the troop can climb fig trees in which to spend the night. The home range allows access to the river to drink, and also has several food sources, such as Acacias, Fig trees, Tribulus, and Cordis. However, outside the home range are several feeding sites where the troop can feed on foods not found in the home range, such as the Mathenge tree and the Grewia ssp. These feeding sites are more precarious because they are far from the safety of the sleeping sites and are also in territory that is not formally held by the troop. This means they could potentially encounter other rival baboon troops. Nevertheless, the troop will sometimes travel the distance to these sites in order to access some of their favorite food sources that are not in the home range.
Today, the baboon troop ventured to a location that Sisco has never seen them go to before. By traveling to this new area, the Empaleki troop has expanded their range and incorporated a new feeding site into their repertoire. Sisco explained that when the troop is considering using a new feeding site, they will send out emissaries, often young and fit members of the troop, to scout out potential locations. After the scouts identify an area with food, they will inform the troop and lead them to it. Today was the first time that the entire troop traveled to this new feeding site!
With Sisco’s extensive knowledge of the Empaleki troop, we were able to construct a map showing the troop’s home range, sleeping sites, normal feeding sites, and the newly accessed feeding site. Check it out below!
On this morning walk, we also spotted James, one of the males of the troop. James lost a leg three weeks ago for unknown reasons, though Sisco suspects that he was speared. At first, James had a lot of difficulty keeping up with the troop when they went out to the feeding sites. He initially would hang back in the safety of the sleeping site and eat whatever food he could find there. However, three weeks since his injury, we saw James venture all the way to the new feeding site with the rest of the Empaleki troop. He appeared to be comfortable walking with his three legs and was engaged in social interactions with the rest of the troop. Though he will always be a bit slower and thus more susceptible to being caught by predators, Sisco believes that James will be able to adapt to having three legs and live a long life despite his injury. Sisco will continue to keep an eye out for James, and he is hopeful that people staying at the Lale’enok Resource Centre will be able to see James on baboon walks for many years to come.