I studied a troop of baboons in the Okavango Delta for over a year. The troop roosted in the trees on an island across from the lodge and every morning would move onto the main island, returning to their roosting spot in the evening. It was at the time of the arrival of the flood waters that interesting behaviour was observed – the reaction of the individuals of the troop to water.
The water levels of the seasonal floodplains of the delta vary from year to year and season to season and it was fascinating watching the reactions of the individuals in the troop when it came to crossing the flooded plains. They would always use the same crossing point and there was a great deal of ‘discussion’ at the edge of the water before the first baboon would make the first move.
The reactions depended on the level of the water. If the water was low all the members of the troop would walk across on all fours, but as the water rose individual traits would surface.
There was a narrow channel in the middle of the floodplain that posed a problem to some of the individuals when the water was high. Some would attempt to jump across, landing awkwardly, others would try to run across on all fours while others stood up on their hind legs and simply walked across. Young ones would be soaked as they clung to their mothers, screaming until they got to the other side.
I got to thinking as to how the individuals decided on the easiest way to cross and why there was such a variation within one troop? Was it trial and error from a young age?