Why male baboons go ape and attack pregnant females

19 January 2017 - 17:30 By Dave Chambers
A baboon. File picture
A baboon. File picture

Baboons don’t monkey around when it comes to domestic violence.

Males eager to father their own offspring not only kill youngsters fathered by others - they attack pregnant females‚ causing them to miscarry.

They then mate with the mothers of their victims‚ according to a survey of baboons in Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya.

Perpetrators are more prone to commit domestic violence when they move into a troop with few fertile females‚ said lead researcher Matthew Zipple‚ of Duke University in North Carolina‚ US.

“They resort to violence to achieve what’s necessary to survive and reproduce‚” said Zipple‚ writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Combing through 46 years of baboon census records‚ the researchers noticed a mysterious spike in infant deaths and lost pregnancies in the two weeks after a new male’s arrival.

Susan Alberts‚ professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke‚ said a male baboon would normally have to wait at least a year for a pregnant or lactating female to finish nursing her infant and resume breeding.

But with no baby‚ females were ready to conceive again within 41 days.

The most common culprits were males who rose quickly to the top of the pecking order‚ because newly dominant males were usually overthrown within 12 months.

“They’ve got a pretty short window‚” said Alberts.

-TMG Digital/The Times