Chacma baboons are omnivorous, feeding primarily on fruit and leaves. They usually roam in the veld for grass, insects, roots and eggs, returning to resting areas during the late afternoon. Female baboons produce one infant at a time and the newborn chacma can cling to the mother soon after birth. There is no fixed mating season, and chacmas are full-grown within eight years.
Chacma Baboons are gregarious and can live in very large troops. They have a well-developed social structure, led by a dominant male, with individual females having a very definite ‘pecking order’ within the troop. The number of adult males in troops can vary from a solitary individual in the smaller troops to up to 12 in some of the very large ones.
Dominant males lead the troops and direct their movements, with subordinate males traveling towards the rear. Low-ranking females are located on the perimeter of the troop. High ranking females, which are more likely to have infants, are likely to be found towards the centre of the group. When there is danger nearby, the male will let out a bark which sends the rest of the troop to safety.
Their primary enemy is the leopard: when one is spotted they let off hysterical shrieks and barks, which often causes the leopard to flee. They have a very powerful build with large canines, which can be used in vicious fights, which sometimes end in death. The older males can become very bad-tempered. The troop leaders’ dominance is drilled into the rest of the troop from an early age, and if they become disobedient they are likely to receive a swift cuff.