Afghan Arabia Wild
When you spend a lot of time looking for and studying wildlife in the natural environment nature sometime blesses you with a sacred, unexpected moment. That is certainly the way I felt when I discovered this troop of Hamadryas Baboons (Papio hamadryas) outside of Riyadh. These guys live in the canyons and crevices of a line of cliffs that overlook a group of date farms. The troop is therefore not unfamiliar with humans and I was able to spend some quality time with them and snap photos. As long as I obeyed the rules of baboon etiquette and kept my distance our visit was very amicable.
On the left is a nice picture of the baboon's rocky home. The crevices and caves in these cliffs provide cool respite in summer and warmth in winter. On the right is a view of the troop with the date farms beyond the cliffs. The little black dots in the picture are the baboons. They were about a hundred feet below me when I found them and took this picture.
It did not take the troop long to discover my presence at the top of the hill. Rightly associating a human with the possibility of food, the dominant male led the pack up the cliffs in my direction. They scaled the steep crags with amazing - and quick - agility. It was a bit unnerving to see how fast they closed the distance between us. I discreetly placed my watermelon rinds on the ground and retreated. After my heart settled down I relaxed and began taking photographs. The baboons were surprisingly peaceful even though I carried a small cooler with me that might have been a target for further investigation. The rinds generated a great excitement that lasted several seconds while the leader chowed down on the fruit. They calmed down immediately afterward, scratching the earth, grunting, and coughing in Hamadryas language. The little ones were very active and all of the primates interacted constantly. It the short time I watched I did not witness any of the violent outbursts characteristic of chimps and baboons. It was a quiet, magical afternoon.
Two of my favorite photos from that day. One of the younger males surveying the date farms of which he is no doubt familiar, and the final rays of the setting sun behind the troop as they retreat home for the evening.
As evident in the pictures the males have a distinctive, fluffy coat with a frosty glint. They are handsome animals with a regal bearing. These baboons like rocky desert terrain and range from northeastern Africa into southernSaudi Arabia. Mainly vegetarian, but I suspect they are opportunistic carnivores as well there is simply not enough vegetation to support such a large troop. Their feet and naked, red rear ends are incredibly tough; the entire area in these photos is comprised of brittle shards of shale and rock. Hamadryads live to about thirty five years of age and I estimated the larges male weighed in the neighborhood of forty pounds.