Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in open savannah, open woodland and hills across Africa. They are omnivorous, highly opportunistic feeders and will eat virtually anything, including grasses, roots, seeds, leaves, bark, fruits, fungus, insects, spiders, worms, fish, shellfish, rodents, birds, vervet monkeys, and small antelopes. They are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They often raid human dwellings, and in South Africa they break into homes and cars in search of food. Baboons will also raid farms, eating crops and preying on sheep, goats and poultry.
Their principal predators are Nile crocodiles, lions, spotted and striped hyenas, and leopards.They are considered a difficult prey for the leopard, though, which is mostly a threat to young baboons. Large males will often confront them by flashing their eyelids, showing their teeth by yawning, making gestures, and chasing after the intruder/predator. Although they are not a prey species, baboons have been killed by the black mamba snake. This usually occurs when a baboon accidentally rouses the snake.
The collective noun for baboons is “troop”. Most baboons live in hierarchical troops. Group sizes are typically around 50 animals, but can vary between 5 and 250, depending on species, location and time of year. The structure within the troop varies considerably between hamadryas baboons and the remaining species, sometimes collectively referred to as savanna baboons. The hamadryas baboons often appear in very large groups composed of many smaller harems (one male with four or so females), to which females from elsewhere in the troop are recruited while they are still too young to breed. Other baboon species have a more promiscuous structure with a strict dominance hierarchy based on the matriline. The hamadryas baboon group will typically include a younger male, but he will not attempt to mate with the females unless the older male is removed. In the harems of the hamadryas baboons, the males jealously guard their females, to the point of grabbing and biting the females when they wander too far away. Despite this, some males will raid harems for females. Such situations often cause aggressive fights between the males. Visual threats usually accompany these aggressive fights. These include a quick flashing of the eyelids accompanied by a yawn to show off the teeth. Some males succeed in taking a female from another’s harem, called a “takeover”. In several species, infant baboons are taken by the males as hostages, or used as shields during fights.