Geographic Distribution and Habitat
The Kinda baboon occurs in southwestern Tanzania (though possibly as far as northern Mahale Mountains National Park), southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, western Zambia, and northern Angola.
Their habitat is a combination of gallery forest, thorny scrub woodlands, and savanna. Like yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalu), whose habitat overlaps in some areas with the kinda baboon, they require proximity to water sources due to the lack of rain in the arid locations of their range.
Kinda baboons were thought to be a subspecies of yellow baboons until 2013, when genetic differences, along with already observed morphological differences, distinguished them as a separate species. However, because Kinda baboons had been grouped with yellow baboons for so long, there is not a lot of separate and distinct information about them.
Size, Weight, and Lifespan
Kinda baboons are the smallest of all baboon species; Kinda baboon adult males only grow as large as the adult females of other baboon species. On average, they measure 20 inches in length (50cm) and weigh only 31 lbs (14kg).
Baboons in general have been known to live in captivity for up to 45 years and up to 30 years in the wild.
Kinda baboons have a yellowish-brown pelage similar to yellow baboons, though theirs is softer with a silky texture. They have a pronounced crest on the top of their head and dark faces, with the exception of the pinkish skin surrounding their eyes. Their faces are long and narrow with pronounced muzzles and sunken cheeks. Kinda baboons have smaller (though still sharp) teeth and a reduced cranial size compared to other baboons. Unlike yellow baboons with their awkwardly bent tails—sometimes referred to as “broken” tails—Kinda baboons have gracefully arched tails. Infants have a white natal coat.
All baboons have a diverse diet and will eat a variety of foods, including insects, fish, shellfish, hares, birds, and vervet monkeys. Kinda baboons are classified as omnivorous, but they are mostly herbivorous and they often forage for food.
Yellow baboons have been known to feed on grass, tubers, acacia tree products, fruits, flowers, termites, beetles, ants, reptiles, bird eggs, and lesser bushbabies (Galago senegalensis), so it’s possible that Kinda baboons also include those things in their diet as well. It is likely that Kinda baboons also alter their diet to adapt to the changing seasons, like relying less on fruit and more on tubers during the dry season.
Behavior and Lifestyle
Kinda baboons are terrestrial (live primarily on the ground) and quadrupedal (walk on all fours) . They are active at irregular times throughout the day and night and, due to their foraging lifestyle, move around depending on access to essential resources like food and water. As an example, we know that during the dry season, yellow baboons can travel up to 4.47 mi (7.2 km) a day in search of food and there is no reason to assume Kinda baboons would not do the same. Their peak active times are mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Some studies suggest that there is not enough genetic or behavioral diversity within the Papio genus to make any final judgement about species and subspecies; essentially, it is not universally agreed upon that Kinda baboons are their own species.
The Kinda baboon is named after the town in southern Democratic Republic of the Congo where the type-locality was found.
Though Kinda baboons are terrestrial during the day, they do retreat to the trees at night, likely because it offers better protection from predators. An entire group will take over a section of trees, known as a sleeping grove.
It can be inferred that Kinda baboons keep a similar schedule to that of yellow baboons, which means they arrive at their sleeping grove between 5:30 and 6:45 p.m. and descend the trees between 7:00 and 10:00 a.m. in the morning. The group remains nearby the sleeping grove to socialize and groom before spreading out to forage.
Kinda baboons form social groups composed of both males and females. The latter will typically remain with their natal group while adult males will emigrate into other groups. The closest bonds between group members are made between females and other females, but affiliative behavior outside of mating between males and females also occurs. Unlike typical grooming partnerships in which females groom males, adult male Kinda baboons are usually the first to initiate grooming and females are the first to terminate. Males groom females more often and for longer durations than vice versa, especially in the mornings rather than evenings; some say this distinct behavior further demonstrates the certainty that Kinda baboons are a separate species.
Though there are no official estimates on group sizes, some sources suggest that Kinda baboon groups can comprise up to 100 individuals.
There is not much information available for the communication techniques that are unique to Kinda baboons, so we will look to yellow baboons as an example yet again. Yellow baboons use visual signals like staring, eyebrow raising, and canine tooth display in order to demonstrate aggression. Their auditory cues consist of teeth chattering (aggressive) and lip-smacking (reassuring) and their vocalizations include barks, grunts, screeches, yakking, and shrill barks.
It has been observed that Kinda baboons utilize social grooming as tactile communication in order to reinforce social bonds.
In general, baboon mating behavior in savanna species consists of a mating order based on social ranking, but each male has access to and can mate with any female. Males that create strong bonds with females often have an easier time mating than just those who act dominantly. Males have also been observed caring for young and protecting them during fights. Female baboons give birth after a six-month gestation to a single infant, who will reach sexual maturity in five to eight years.
It is likely that the male-female grooming that occurs in Kinda baboons also leads to close bonds that result in courtships.
There has been a study of cross-breeding between Kinda baboons and gray-footed chacma baboons (P. ursinus griseipes) outside of Kafue National Park, Zambia. At 48 sites located where the two species come into contact with one another, it has been confirmed that groups are physically and genetically unique from the Kinda and chacma baboon species due to generation of hybridization, that is successful mating between the two species. Genetic markers from fecal samples were used to support this claim. It was also observed that male Kinda baboons mated more often with female gray-footed chacma baboons, perhaps because of the substantial difference in size between the two species (gray-footed chacma baboons are larger than Kinda baboons, so it would be more difficult for a female Kinda to carry gray-footed chacma offspring).
As herbivorous foragers with a diverse plant diet, Kinda baboons spread seeds in two ways: by passing them through their digestive systems or by dropping off seeds that attach to their fur during foraging a few miles away.
The Kinda baboon is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (IUCN, 2020). Their population trend is listed as stable.
When the Kinda baboon was first listed as Least Concern, they were a common species, present in many protected areas, and did not face too many range-wide threats that would have caused any sort of significant population decline. It has been reported that there are no major threats to Kinda baboons, though they have faced local displacement due to agriculture and deforestation in some parts of their range. It is important to note, however, that this information has not been updated in over ten years and could be different today.
They are listed as “vermin” under the African Convention.
Kinda baboons are likely a prey species for lions, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyenas, jackals, pythons, chimpanzees, servals, caracals, wild dogs, and humans.
Kinda baboons occur in protected areas and they are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They are included in the studies enacted by the Kasanka Baboon Project in order to observe and detail them in order to better protect them.
Written by Rachel Heim, April 2020