Just when you thought animal lovers couldn’t get more ridiculous comes this story, via NPR.
Holy Baboon! A ‘Mystical’ Moment In Africa by Robert Krulwich.

It tells the story of baboons who were romping down to a lake, and suddenly they all stopped and were quiet. After a few minutes, they started down again to get a drink and acted normally.

Big deal. Makes sense to me: After all, predators frequently hide around the lakes and water holes in Africa, especially in the dry season, and baboons are smart enough to know that. They come tromping down making noise, and they might just end up as dinner for a lion or hyena.

But no, no common sense here.  According to an NPR story, Barbara Smuts thinks that they stopped to enjoy the view and have a “mystical” moment.

The quiet was total. “I really wondered what was going on,” says Smuts….Smuts calls it a “sacred” quiet, “I have never heard another primatologist recount such an experience. I sometimes wonder if, on those two occasions, I was granted a glimpse of a dimension of baboon life they do not normally expose to people. These moments reminded me how little we know about the more-than-human world.”

Despite her name, Smuts is an American Anthropologist, not a South African. And she studied with Jane Goodall. Why is this important? Because it means she takes an elitist approach to baboons. Hell, Jane Goodall thinks apes should have civil rights. How bozo can you get? Four million people have died in Central African wars, but you wouldn’t know it form all those romantic TV shows about baboons and lions you see on TV.

You see, when I lived in Africa, I learned to hate baboons. They aren’t cute or sweet.

Why? Because the baboons would come down in gangs from their kopjes and steal the corn and other crops that were ready to harvest. If a woman or child tried to stop them, they would all attack the smaller person. Scarecrows didn’t work: they were too smart. So you needed a man, or maybe several men, to sit out and guard the fields if you wanted to keep your crops.

And many of the people relied on those crops to eat. No crop, you starved.

Alas, with western economics, many of the strong and young men were working in town or in the mines to earn money for their families.

But the gun control laws were strict: No “Annie Oakley” women allowed. And the alternative weapons, i.e. hoes and machetes, won’t protect you against a dozen baboons with large teeth and nasty claws.

So one of our Swiss helpers, who learned to shoot in the Swiss Army and had a gun license, would get out his gun, sit in the field that was being raided, and shoot a couple of the baboons. He would then place the dead bodies up on poles around the crops.

The next time the gang came to steal food, they would stop “in awe” and stare, and then turn and run back to their safe homes in the trees of the kopje. Baboons aren’t exactly smart, but they are smart enough to recognize danger.

No, ma’am, maybe none of your university trained “primatologists” can explain the behavior of the baboons, but any African farmer knows exactly why they stopped.

They want to make sure that the area is safe before they enter.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about human rights in Africa at Makaipa Blog.

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