Baby Baboon Born at Ramat Gan Safari: Fake Father Protecting It From His Wives

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Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

The good news is that a baby baboon has been brought to the world at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv - Ramat Gan, becoming the first baboon birth at the zoo in two years.

The weird news is that its proud papa has to pretend it never happened, and its wellbeing is being safeguarded by its fake father.

How did this extraordinary state of affairs come about?

His real daddy isn’t the alpha male, that’s how. Yet Sting – the dominant male in the troop – seems convinced the infant is his son, while the real father, a low-ranking male named Shapira, has to pretend the whole thing never happened.

How do the officials at the zoo, commonly known as the Ramat Gan Safari Park, know what’s in the baboons’ minds? Because Sting is fiercely protecting the mother Sigal, sitting by her adorable newborn.

Sting can’t be the father because he’s been neutered, explains Safari spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz. He was fixed some years back when the zoo realized it needed to regulate its merrily breeding baboon population, and did so by giving the alpha male a vasectomy.

“We wanted the baboons’ lives to continue as usual,” explains Horowitz. “The operation would enable him to continue mating with the females in his harem, but there would be no issue.”

The underlying concept is that the alpha male won’t let lowly inferior males mate with his ladies. Thus the Safari would have happy baboons doing their baboon thing and no more proliferation.

It may be the aspiration of every boy baboon to dominate and be the only one to mate with the females in his harem. But he can’t be everywhere at once. Shapira, an inferior male, took advantage of Sting’s momentary inattention to make magic with 6-year old Sigal and the rest is history.

In fact this is the second time this sneaky Shapira has, in a moment of Sting’s inattention, mated with Sigal. The first time was (you guessed it) two-and-a-half years ago.

Nor is adultery that the only drama going down in that baboon troop: there’s a threat of kidnap in the air.

“Sigal is a mid-ranking female,” says Horowitz. “Sting is protecting Sigal and the baby against higher-ranking females who might kidnap it.”

They did so two years ago. Stronger females unable to have offspring of their own with Sting and evidently unwilling to mate with lowly inferior males may have developed a yearning, Horowitz elaborates. Back then they seized Sigal’s infant for a whole day and sent the zoo officials into near-cardiac arrest – “It needed to nurse,” explains Horowitz. “We were extremely worried.”

Somehow Sigal managed to steal that baby back and it survived. But now Sting is closely watching, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

And what is the charming infant’s name? The Safari is considering it. Stay tuned.

This is how the baby baboon will get about in the near future: On mama's tum.Credit: Tibor Yager
Sting, neutered long ago, can hardly be the father. So is the real dad a deadbeat? No, just an adulterer.Credit: Tibor Yager
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It's been a long day for the newborn.Credit: Tibor Yager
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This is how the baby baboon will get about in the near future: On mama's tum.Credit: Tibor Yager
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The baby nursing from Sigal, its mother.Credit: Tibor Yager

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