Yesterday, on 17 November, 2014, Hobbit, Joey, Hapoel, Eric, Royston, Noam, Sophia, Ginger, Mango and FINALLY Tinka and Rigby were successfully introduced into the Main Baboon Camp!
This is always such an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation process as it is the FINAL step before reintroduction! It is such an amazing thing to watch these animals go from young orphans who depend on their human care-takers for everything, to end up integrated with a stable troop of baboons - foraging, grooming, playing, and so independant and confident in their place within the troop that they barely recognise those they once depended on. Youngsters who once fled to us when afraid, now flee to the shelter of the trees and the safety of their troop at the sight of us approaching.
Not only is it exciting to see our young orphans move forward, but this is especially exciting as we can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Tinka and Rigby have finally found the confidence to join the troop after 1 year for Tinka and 8 months for Rigby.
Both Tinka and Rigby were kept as pets into near adulthood which made the integration process so much more difficult for them. Tinka arrived with two others she was raised with as pets and had a difficult time letting go of the former dynamic of her relationship with them. Rigby also had a difficult time, whether as a result of being kept as a pet or as a result of Tinka's influence, or both, we cannot say, but he was reluctant to join in any case.
But joining them with the group of youngsters seemed to be just the thing they needed. They are also are the first group to be introduced since the opening of the expanded portion of the baboon enclosure, taking the pressure off of the growing population.
The first 20 minutes of the introduction were quite hectic, as the usual antagonists from the main camp (Bankok, Louis, Footloose, Duck Foot, etc) descended on them immediately as they usually do during introductions. Nearly all of the "Middle Baboons" went out immediately but were chased back in right away. The next 20 minutes were a lot of screaming and chaos.
After 20 minutes, however, things calmed down a lot. Joey was the first to run out and join previous Middle Baboons such as Rocky, Mac, AL, Bruno and Lana amongst others on the Jurgens side. He rarely returned again. He was joined not long after by Noam, Hobbit, and Royston. Sophia also went out quite early on, also to the Jurgens side, but kept mostly to herself. Hapoel and Eric had more rough go of it, getting picked on a bit more than the other boys and returning to the intro more frequently, but they also eventually stayed out with the others. Mango and Ginger ventured out from time to time but mostly stayed right in front of the intro door for short periods and back into the intro enclosure together. Ginger was the most reluctant to leave of the "Middles" group.
Rigby had moments of bravery and went out and about but eventaully came into conflict with one male or another and ran back to the safety of the intro. Towards the end of the afternoon he confronted Timothy (woopsie!) and was flung into the air. He was unharmed but reluctant to leave the intro again after that.
Tinka was true to form and immediately ran out of the enclosure. We were prepared for this and had workers stationed at the back. It took an hour to catch her, but she was eventually returned safely. She tried again and the workers managed to keep her in, chasing her from the fence, but she evaded them once again and escaped again, this time returned after 10 minutes. After this she was joined by her long time friend Josi who helped ease the transition and was kept from the fence successfully by the workers. When she finally realised she couldn't escape she seemed more willing to explore her new space, remaining close to the intro door. She spent most of her time splashing in the puddles the rain has formed and presenting (from great distances) to all of the males she could find. She was on a few occasions groomed by Main Camp females, and managed to get some food from the food pile and eat it peacefully. She kept trying to go to the new Jurgens portion but was reluctant to go if there were any baboons on the other side of the gate. She explored happily, mostly on her own until about 4:30 pm when she got into a fight with the troop's dominant female, Jantjie, who bit and twisted her arm. From then Tinka was reluctant to leave the introduction enclosure again.
By the evening only Tinka, Rigby, Mango and Ginger remained in the intro enclosure. The rest of the "Middle Baboon" group remained on the Jurgens side of the enclosure for most of the day foraging and climbing in the trees together.
Around 5pm, most of the main camp baboons migrated to the dorm side of the enclosure then later back to the Jurgens side in unison to prepare for the night. The Middle Baboons did not seem to know where to go at this point, circling around the intro door in the middle portion of the camp. Eventually they decided they would follow suit and went also to the Jurgens side.
By the morning they were all out of the intro enclosure. Tinka was sitting with Footloose, Rigby was exploring the Jurgens side, and the "Middles" were divided between sleeping in the trees on the Jurgens side, and playing and running with some bigger males (including recently introduced Banjo!) on the dorm side.
Aside from the initial 20 minutes of comotion, this has been such a lovely and peaceful introduction and such a joy to watch these baboons become part of a happy stable troop!