Kinda Baboon Grooming: much, much more than just hygiene
If you have spent any time in the presence of baboons you will have noticed that they often pick through one another’s fur. This is called grooming. One’s first thought is that this serves a hygienic purpose by helping another get fleas and dirt out; similar to a cat licking their fur. Actually, on my last game drive (not is Kasanka) this was the explanation our guide gave us when we came across grooming baboons. I held my tongue J. Grooming does serve a hygienic purpose and often you will also see baboons grooming themselves, however, for baboons grooming is much more than cleanliness.
Grooming can be called the “glue” that holds the social group together.
Grooming creates and maintains bonds between individual baboons.
Apart from eating, sleeping and traveling to feed and sleep, baboons spend their time resting and grooming one another.
Of course it must feel good to BE groomed, but recent research has actually found that grooming another individual also feels good.
Grooming and being groomed has been shown to decrease stress levels in baboons (e.g. cortisol). In baboon society females remain in their birth group, while males transfer when they are mature adults. Because of this, females are closely bonded and grooming is most commonly seen between females and females and females and their offspring. Other grooming relationships do exist including juveniles grooming males, and males and females grooming one another.
Grooming relationships between males and females are a strong indicator of opposite-sex friendship in baboons.
Data I collected last summer shows that grooming interactions are very different in Kinda baboons compared to chacma, yellow and olive baboons.
Next installment… Kinda baboon Friendships, what makes them unique?
Kasanka Baboon Project