In The Wild
Geladas (Theropithecus gelada) are often referred to as gelada baboons however, these monkeys actually belong to a separate genus and are not true baboons. They are the last surviving species of grass-grazing primates. They have short, powerful fingers to help them dig down for the juicy, nutritious roots.
Geladas are “shuffle-feeders” who rarely stand up when grazing, instead preferring to continuously pluck grass blades whilst shuffling from place to place on their bottoms!
Because of this, unlike other baboon females whose bottoms swell up to indicate to the males that they are ready to mate, Gelada females have distinctive, pink hourglass shaped skin patches on the chest that visibly change in appearance throughout their oestrus cycle. This allows males to tell if the females are ready to be mated, even when they are sitting down grazing! As well as deepening in colour, blister-like “vesicles” appear on the chest (and groin area) which can clearly be seen from a distance. All females of reproductive age in a group tend to have vesicles appearing simultaneously, unless they are pregnant. Gestation is usually around six months in length and although single infants are most common, twins have been seen on occasion.
Geladas use a complex mix of facial expression and vocalisations to communicate with others in the group. These can be very subtle or extremely obvious! Look out for them “mouth chattering” as a greeting to one another or flashing their pale eye-lids as a sign of annoyance.
They are normally found in the Ethiopian highlands, at altitudes of between 2,000 and 5,000 meters.
Gelada numbers are declining due to their highly specialised ecology. The human population in Ethiopia is growing and therefore the resulting, expanding farmlands are putting the species at risk. Also as a result of this geladas have been shot by farmers when they believe they have raided their crops.