Sunday, August 4, 2013

Baffling baboon behavior

Biologists at Emmen Zoo in the Netherlands are puzzled by the behavior of their 112 hamadryas baboons, although they have observed it before in 1994, 1997, and 2007. Monday night it took more than an hour to get them into their night enclosure, when it usually takes but a minute. Starting the next morning, they began spending their days sitting still in the trees or huddled together on the rocks, with their backs turned to visitors. They have only just begun to resume their normal eating patterns. In the wild such hysteria would have been triggered by a predator, but it would not have lasted as long. With the zoo in the city center, it is unlikely that they saw a fox and none of the other animals have been spooked. Biologist Wijbren Landman comments, "What frightened them? We don't know, it's a mystery. There have been many suggestions - an earthquake, escaped snakes, aliens, thunder." While the alien theory has grabbed a headline, the answer may be much more mundane. One of the males in the hierarchy may have seen the image of a predator on a visitor's T-shirt!

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