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Olive baboon
Papio anubis


CITES: Appendix II (What is CITES?)
IUCN Red List: P. anubis: LC (What is Red List?)
Key: LC = Least concern
(Click on species name to see IUCN Red List entry, including detailed status assessment information.)


Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

Baboons are highly adaptable animals that are able to exploit a number of different environments (Ransom 1981; Strum 1987). Even when humans clear areas for cultivation or develop infrastructure on land, olive baboons are capable of exploiting new food resources, including agricultural products and refuse (Forthman Quick 1986).

Threat: Invasive Alien Species

While olive baboons and other primates are subject to a number of naturally occurring pathogens and parasites which can be harmless or cause only mild problems, other infections have been recorded to be serious within certain populations (Farah et al. 2003). In 1982, an outbreak of tuberculosis introduced through eating infected beef caused high levels of morbidity among a Kenyan population of olive baboons (Sapolsky & Else 1987). The group in which the disease originated lived nearby humans who raise and slaughter cows. The adult males of the group often frequented the slaughterhouse's dump to feed and were infected through consumption of contaminated beef. Tuberculosis spreads quickly among captive nonhuman primates and results in weight loss, coughing, lethargy, and death (Sapolsky & Else 1987). Because of the movement patterns of male baboons, including natal and secondary transfer, diseases like tuberculosis can spread over a large area and to multiple groups. While new accounts of this disease have not been recorded in wild olive baboon populations, the potential for another outbreak is possible if sanitation standards are not increased. Proper disposal of infected beef could prevent the baboons from scavenging meat and decrease the possibility of transmission (Sapolsky & Else 1987).

Natural predators of olive baboons include felids, wild dogs, hyenas, chimpanzees, crocodiles, and raptors, but as baboons come into close proximity with humans, domestic dogs become more of a threat (Rowell 1966; Nagel 1973; Harding 1976; Smuts 1985; Barton et al. 1996).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

Olive baboons are hunted for food in some populations, but compared to other primate species, they are not harvested at high rates (Fa et al. 2005). They are killed by being shot or by being trapped in wire snares (Isabirye-Basuta 2004).

Threat: Persecution

Baboons are highly adaptable and exploit many food resources, including agricultural crops which neighbor their natural habitat. In some areas, human encroachment has increased greatly and olive baboons have become a serious pest species, raiding crops on a regular basis and finding much of their food in human-centered areas. These behavioral patterns have led to serious consequences for some baboons as farmers poison, trap, and shoot problem baboons (Ransom 1981; Naughton-Treves et al. 1998; Hill 2000). Olive baboons are particularly problematic and threaten the livelihood of farmers because of their destructive behaviors while raiding crops. They often dig up, snap off, or otherwise destroy a plant when they eat it. A group of baboons can cause serious damage to a subsistence farm, causing backlash from farmers (Hill 2000). While there are some solutions that decrease crop raiding on individual farms, as more land is converted to agricultural use and baboon habitat shrinks, more extensive measures may be necessary to decrease conflict and save baboons (Strum &Southwick 1986).

Potential Solutions

Several techniques have been used to decrease crop-raiding behavior in olive baboons including playback of alarm calls to frighten the raiders, chemical deterrents, and guard dogs. While each of these will work for a limited amount of time, because of the intelligence of baboons, the offending animals will learn to avoid these or will simply ignore them (Strum 1987; 1994). One extreme measure that has been successful in decreasing baboon mortality due to human persecution is relocation of baboons from areas of high human density and agriculture to areas of low human density (Strum 1987; Strum & Southwick 1986). In 1984, three troops of olive baboons were relocated from Gilgil, Kenya after precipitous decline in the main population due to persecution by farmers (Strum 1987). The baboons were moved to the less populated but equally ecologically suitable Laikipia Plateau, Kenya. This translocation involved 131 baboons, of which all survived and adapted to life in their new surroundings (Strum 1987). While this is an extreme measure, the pioneering work of Shirley Strum and her colleagues proved how successful and safe relocation could be for baboons and, depending on the circumstances, could be a tactic used for other populations of olive baboons suffering from persecution.

Threat: Natural Disasters

Savanna ecosystems are subject to periodic droughts that can have severe effects on the wildlife. Decreased rainfall affects grass regeneration and other plant growth, forcing olive baboons to spend more time foraging and inducing some physiological changes as well. Males have lower levels of testosterone during drought and females can potentially have difficulty reproducing (Sapolsky 1986). Malnourishment has not been reported during times of drought mainly because baboons adapt to rainfall shortages by increasing time spent feeding and traveling and decrease energetically expensive behaviors such as aggressive interactions and copulation (Sapolsky 1986).

Threat: Changes in Native Species Dynamics

Hybridization occurs between olive baboons and hamadryas (Papio hamadryas) as well as yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) in the wild (Samuels & Altmann 1986; Nagel 1973). Because the behavior is similar between these species and because they produce offspring that are healthy and can reproduce, natural hybrid zones form where the ranges of these species meet (Phillips-Conroy et al. 1988; Alberts & Altmann 2001). Hybrids have phenotypic and behavioral characteristics of both species and may be more successful than each of the species alone at exploiting the marginal environment (Bergman & Beehner 2004). While considered a natural phenomenon, increased hybridization has been recorded in recent years. At Amboseli National Park, Kenya human cultivation has increased in recent years, forcing olive baboons into more overlapping areas with yellow baboons and increasing the amount of hybridization (Alberts & Altmann 2001). There is no current evidence that increased hybridization threatens olive baboon populations at Amboseli (Detwiler et al. 2005).





Content last modified: April 18, 2006

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Ryne Palombit.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2006 April 18. Primate Factsheets: Olive baboon (Papio anubis) Conservation . <>. Accessed 2014 April 17.