Gelada Baboon, northern Ethiopia
This shot of a gelada baboon was published in July’s Audubon Magazine as part of a story on the geladas’ vocalizations and its resemblance to human speech. Years ago while I was guiding in northern Ethiopia, I had the chance to go into the Semien Mountains in the Ethiopian Highlands. Also known as the Roof of Africa, per sq. km. it’s the highest chunk of land on the continent. I took this shot at about 3000 meters (~10,000 ft) amid the stunning peaks and canyons of the Semiens:
I had been trekking in these mountains with my group in a cool mist when we came upon a troop of geladas foraging on the grassland. The gelada baboon has wicked incisors and an equally fierce stare so you instinctively keep your distance. I shot this with a telephoto lens from about 40 meters away (for camera-types, I used a Canon L-series 100-400mm lens @ ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/250 sec at a focal length of 400 mm).
Remarkably, though, the gelada baboon is a herbivore (more specifically, a graminivore, or grass-eater) and their incisors are adapted for chewing grass. By the looks of it, they’re probably also used in defence or at least scaring the hell out of a would-be agressor. It’s the “chest plate” of the gelada baboon, though, that really captures people’s attention. The males’ patch is twice the size and more colorful than the females. The color of the females’ patch is dependent on hormonal changes: when she’s in estrus, the female patch is brighter indicating her biological receptivity for mating.
Here’s another shot of these amazing creatures:
As with most foreign travel, you constantly come up against scenes that belie the stereotypes. Many of us think of Ethiopia as a parched land with little physical relief. But that’s the magic of travel; your previously held perceptions are constantly challenged. So, here I was, wet and at times actually cold in Ethiopia. What a wild diverse place it is. Physically, the north is a rugged patch of mountains and canyons; the south is parched grassland with striking oddities such as the sun-baked Danakil Depression which is actually 150 meters below sea level; the west of the country near Sudan is wetter with swamps and marshes; and the east is arid and rugged as you approach Somalia. Culturally, it’s just as wild and diverse but I’ll save that for another post.
Hope you like the images.
Bye for now.
ps: click here to see some more travel photography.