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Three Life-Long Pet Baboons On Their Journey To Freedom

Josi was born in 2008 near Hartswater. She was unfortunately born into a troop that occupied a hunting reserve that allows its guests to hunt baboons. Normally only large "prize" males are hunted for sport, but on this occasion, whether on purpose or by accident it's unclear, Josi's mother was shot and killed by a guest. The owner of the lodge took pity on the infant and raised her as part of the family, taking her for car and helicopter trips, and allowing her to live in the house. She eventually grew too large and cheeky to live with her human family so the lodge owner built a small, rocky-terrain enclosure for her on the back porch, next to the pool.

Between 2009 and 2010, Josi was joined by Vu-Vu. Vu-Vu's mother sustained a jaw injury that kept her from eating and rendered her incapable of taking care of her baby, in the eyes of the lodge owner, so he took the baby from the ill mother and again raised him as a part of the family. Vu-Vu was older, however, and soon became a friend and playmate for Josi.

Later in 2010, tiny Tinka's mother was also shot, and again the lodge owner cared for the orphan, and when she was big enough she joined Vu-Vu and Josi.

In 2012 a fourth male baby baboon joined the little group, but soon accidentally hung and killed himself with a rope toy in the poorly maintained enclosure. It was this incident that was a revelation to the lodge owner, who decided there and then that keeping these baboons he had grown to love like family was not in their best interest. He decided it was time to find a way for them to be free.

Through a mutual friend, he contacted one of Riverside's satellite stations, where the three adult baboons would be cared for while construction to Riverside's quaratine facilities was being completed.

In May of 2013, the three baboons were relocated to the satellite station. Up until this time they were fed junk food from bowls on the pool deck outside of the enclosure, had little to no water, and only rocks to walk on, leaving them unable to forage. In their new location, they were removed from their junk food diet and given grass and earth to forge through. They received very little human interaction, with much complaint. But they had each other for comfort and they soon grew accustomed to the new routine. They were shortly joined by a juvenile male of 1-2 years old named Ba-Boo, who was kept as a solitary pet in a concrete enclosure his whole life. Ba-Boo was thrilled to have his own kind to play with, especially young Tinka, who babied him and carried him on her belly.

Upon completion of Riverside's new baboon quarantine facilities in August, 2013, Josi, Vu-Vu, Tinka and Ba-Boo were relocated to Riverside for their final phases of rehabilitation. They were placed together under a 40 day quarantine where they passed their TB tests, were dewormed, and were "processed". During processing, it was discovered that Ba-Boo was missing several fingers, Tinka had some deformed fingers, and Vu-Vu had possibly had his canines removed - all effects of their unfortunate previous life in captivity.

In December, 2013, upon completion of their mandatory 40 day quarantine, Josi, Vu-Vu, Tinka and Ba-Boo were moved into the intro of the main baboon enclosure. They were greeted with many curious faces, especially that of Timothy, the largest and second ranked male in the troop. Josi was swelling at the time, and Timothy waited patiently and quietly nearby for her to notice him.

Sub-Adult and juvenile males took to teasing Ba-Boo, who learned quickly not to touch the electrified fence. Tink - the most spoiled of the bunch - seemed to disagree with this new location the most, as there were no people and she was not the centre of attention. But older Josi and Vu-Vu seemed in their element and anxious to meet their new neighbours. Josi relished in the attention, and Vu-Vu was very curious about the males his own age - something he has never experienced.

Soon Josi and the gang will join the rest of the adult baboon troop, and from there find freedom once again. Stay tuned for further updates on the progress of Josi, Vu-Vu, Tinka and Ba-Boo!

25 March, 2014

Josi, Tinka, Vuvu and Baboo were introduced to the main camp after a bit of delay due the birth of two new babies in the enclosure.

They were again processed, and the integration was closely monitored by staff and volunteers.

The four baboons were lightly sedated to decrease defensive behaviour from the new additions, and thus decreasing all around negative behaviour. Once the barrier gte was opened, this gave the opportunity for the main camp baboons to smell, touch, and taste their new troop members without fear or aggression.

The first to enter the introduction enclosure were sub adult males Bankok, Louis, Villain, Footloose, and Duckfoot (the usuals during an integration) and also sub adult female Butternut. They showed immediate interest in the older of the four, Josi and Vuvu, with a lot of touching and lipsmacking and mounting.

When the baboons were all safely awake and able to carry on stably, the monitoring crew stood back a ways to allow the timid Beta male, Timothy, to explore his new troop members. Timothy desired alone time with Josi, who he had been admirine from afar for months, and promptly chased the other 3 out.

While Timothy and Josi got to know eachother, Baboo and Vuvu got to playing with the other males, with some screaming, but a lot of giggles and playing.

Tink and a bit of a rough go of it, as she was raised by Josi from Pink-Face age and sought comfort in her surrogate mother, but Timothy would not allow this, and reprimanded her for seeking attention from Josi. She was not harmed, but did not like being told off and sulked. A tough lesson for Tinka, but she will have to learn to be a part of the whole troop, and not just her small group.

All in all it was a wonderful success. Not a single baboon was harmed during this integration: a type of integration believed by most to be impossible, especially when including adult females.

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