Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Investigation of the Behavioural Response of a Colony of Group-Housed Hamadryas Baboons (Papio Cynocephalus Hamadryas) to Relocation to a More Naturalistic Enclosure

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:31 authored by Wood, Ruth Laura

As part of Wellington Zoo’s current management philosophy to reduce the number of species and increase enclosure size, quality and appropriateness for those remaining animals, the zoo’s colony of hamadryas baboons (Papio cynocephalus hamadryas) was relocated within the zoo to a purpose-designed and more naturalistic exhibit. The primary objective of this investigation was to determine group and individual responses of five of these baboons to their new enclosure. In so doing, this investigation was intended to address the shortage of quantitative, species-specific information on environmental enrichment for Papio baboons (Kessel and Brent 1996). The data collection method used in this investigation consisted of fifteen-minute focal sampling of each of the five focal animals in the two months before and the month following the colony’s relocation. For the purposes of this investigation, these focal samples were initially analysed together, prior to each focal animal being considered independently. Analysis of data extracted from these focal samples included consideration of: • The overall occurrence of individual behaviours between the former and new enclosures; • Additions to the animals’ behavioural repertoires upon relocation; and, • Time the animals spent alone and interacting socially. Upon the colony’s relocation, changes in the combined focal animals’ behaviour were anticipated as a result of greater space, areas of privacy, and increased environmental variation. Focal sampling revealed increasingly naturalistic behaviours, including a reduction in vacuum and vestigial behaviours, and an increase in speciestypical behaviour. Results also indicated that the combined focal animals experienced unexpectedly low levels of “agonistic” (i.e. aggressive) behaviour in both enclosures. However, there was a reduction in some associated behaviours upon the colony’s relocation. This included a decline in male rivalry over females. Differences in the responses of individual focal animals to relocation were also anticipated. Of particular interest were results indicating an increasing similarity of individual roles within one-male units to those of free-ranging hamadryas baboons. These roles were associated with both age and sex. This study raises implications for improving the current management of the Wellington Zoo colony and other captive hamadryas baboon colonies. These include emphasising the importance of appropriate husbandry and feeding schedules. It also raises implications for the future management of other captive Papio baboon colonies in terms of enclosure redesign. These include the benefit of incorporating naturally occurring environmental factors, such as natural leaf litter. This study is also of value from a management perspective as a baseline for future investigations. Such investigations could include long-term monitoring of this colony’s use of environmental enrichment in the new enclosure and consideration of the animals’ behaviour as the colony is encouraged to expand.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Conservation Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Conservation Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Bell, Ben