Tsaobis Baboon Project
The Tsaobis Baboon Project is a long-term study of a desert baboon population in Namibia.
Our work is carried out in collaboration with Tsaobis Nature Park and in affiliation with the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia.
Research permission in Namibia is kindly provided by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. In the UK, the Tsaobis Baboon Project is based at the Institute of Zoology, the research arm of ZSL.
Our research is undertaken with collaborators in various institutions, including the departments of Zoology and Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, Anthropology at University College London, the Institute for Evolutionary Science at the University of Montpellier, Biology at Imperial College London, the Centre for Research in Evolutionary Anthropology at Roehampton University London, and the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.
The aim of the Tsaobis Baboon Project is to carry out fundamental research in behavioural ecology and population ecology using desert baboons as a model system. Our work also has a strong conservation science theme with its interest in the effects of complex social structure on population dynamics and extinction.
The Tsaobis Baboon Project is based in Tsaobis Leopard Park on the edge of the Namib desert in central Namibia. The Tsaobis baboon population is comprised of several troops of chacma baboons Papio ursinus. The first study of this baboon population began in 1990, and there has been continuous study of the population since 2000.
At present, we are working with two core troops and four peripheral troops of baboons that range in size from about 20 to 80 individuals. Each baboon is individually recognisable, of known age (estimated through patterns of tooth eruption and wear) and of known relatedness to other individuals in the population (through microsatellite genotyping).
Tsaobis is a beautiful desert wilderness. The main feature of our study area is the dry riverbed and associated woodlands of the ephemeral Swakop River. It is in these woodlands that the baboons carry out most of their foraging over the winter months.
Immediately to the south of the riverbed, alluvial and gravel plains encircle rocky foothills and dramatic mountains, in which the sleeping cliffs of the baboons are found. The woodland along the riverbed is sustained by a high watertable; beyond the river course there are only desert shrubs and small, sparse trees.
The climate is extremely arid: annual rainfall is only 85mm and shade temperatures can exceed 40oC in the austral summer. In addition to baboons, Tsaobis is home to a wide variety of wildlife including leopard, mountain zebra, kudu, springbok, and klipspringer.
PhD students play a key role in the research undertaken on the Tsaobis baboons. However, we regret that we will not be advertising any new PhD studentships over the coming months.
We are also always interested to receive proposals from PhD students who already have funding and are seeking an appropriate site for their study. Please contact the Project Director, Guy Cowlishaw .
Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate students who wish to carry out undergraduate projects at Tsaobis.
Each year, we recruit volunteers to assist with fieldwork on the Tsaobis Baboon Project. There are six positions for volunteers available in the 2013 field season running from early May to late October. Positions are available for three-month and six-month periods. The travel and subsistence costs of volunteers in the field will be covered by the project, and a contribution will also be made towards the costs of the return flight.
If you would like more information, or to apply for one of these positions, further details are provided under Information for Volunteers .
The deadline for applications is 9am Monday 7th January 2013
Since its inception, a variety of research studies have been carried out on the behaviour and ecology of the Tsaobis baboons. These projects have included studies on predation risk, sexual signals, leadership, personality, and social foraging.
Completed PhD projects include those by Elise Huchard and Andrew King, and more recently, Julio Benavides and Alecia Carter. For further information on previous research at Tsaobis, see our Recent Projects webpage.