Demography of Amboseli baboons, 1963–1983

Authors

  • Jeanne Altmann,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, and Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi
    • Allee Laboratory of Animal Behavior, 940 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
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  • Glenn Hausfater,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri-Columbia
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  • Stuart A. Altmann

    1. Department of Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, and Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi
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Abstract

Repeated censuses of a population of yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, revealed a decrease from over 2,500 animals in 1963–1964 to 123 individuals in 1979, or from a density of about 73 to 1.8 baboons per km2 over a 15-year period. Median group size decreased from 43 in 1964 to 27 in 1979. The largest and smallest groups declined the most; groups near the median have maintained fairly stable size and age distributions. The population seemed to have stabilized by 1983 at approximately 150 animals in six groups (median group size 28; density 2.2/km2). Although baboon population and group size appeared to be stable during 1963–1964, the age distribution and demographic parameters (age-specific mortality and natality for one social group) during that year indicate that the population decline had already started. The rate of population decline was greatest in the 1964–1969 period and remained appreciable during the next 5 years. The decline of the baboon population was paralleled by that of other Amboseli savannah woodland mammalian species and took place during a period of very high mortality of fever trees (Acacia xanthophloea) and extensive invasion of the area by halophytes, a transition brought on by rising ground water and consequent elevation of the soil salinity zone. In this and several other primate populations, mortality of infants and juveniles appears to be the demographic variable most sensitive to environmental change.

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