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Baboons' Social Status Dictates Food Source

Sep 14, 2012 09:57 AM EDT

Baboons consider social factors just like humans before taking foraging decisions, finds a new study published in the journal, The American Naturalist.

Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) studied the foraging activities of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) for a six month period at the Tsaobis Leopard Park in Namibia in order to find out how they decide which trees to forage for food and whom to go with for foraging.

According to National Geographic, there are five different species of baboons, which are one of the largest monkeys, all of them living in either Africa or Arabia. The chacma baboons are more commonly found in South Africa with their population trend being considered as stable and no major threat to their survival. Baboons are generally social animals that live in large groups with both the male and females living together.

For their study, researchers used a method known as discrete choice modeling which is used to study the consumer choices of humans like where they go for shopping and with whom.

They found that the baboons are very choosy about hunting food and use several social and non-social factors before they could decide on their foraging activity. As expected, the baboons preferred trees that contained more food. Experts also noticed that the more dominant baboons preferred to forage food patches with less dominant animals so that they could easily steal food from them.

While the less dominant baboons give up the food resources to the powerful ones, they compensate it by foraging into food patches with animals that have a good social relationship so that they could easily get food without much ado.

"These findings show how animals' decision-making can be dependent on where they are and who they are. This suggests that some animals can change their behavior to adjust to a changing environment," said Dr Guy Cowlishaw of the ZSL, according to

Experts are further planning to study as to how the changing environment could impact the baboons' foraging behavior in the future.

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