How do baboons make decisions? That’s what Dr. Meg Crofoot, an ecologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, is trying to find out. Baboons are social animals, so merely watching individuals wouldn’t reveal how group decisions are made. Her team needed to be able to track the movements and behaviors of an entire group of animals, simultaneously. To do that, Dr. Crofoot’s tracking team used GPS collars to capture the movements of 37 baboons over 30 days. Every second of every day, the GPS signaled a location point for each animal, producing some six million bits of data. On a graph, the data points appear as a web of ever-changing lines linking followers to leaders. There’s much to learn, but preliminary findings reveal that males do not always lead. Females—the core of a baboon group—often assume leadership and attract followers.
Stories from the Bush
Mpala Live! brings you a collection of documentaries produced at the Mpala Research Centre and featuring its stewards of African wildlife. Coming soon: Live chats with scientists who work in this living laboratory of discovery and hope.