Project status
Namibia/ Southwest Africa
Project collaborators
Guy Cowlishaw headshot

Dr Guy Cowlishaw

Senior Research Fellow

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 Gobabeb Namib Research Institute. Research permission in Namibia is kindly provided by the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and the Ministry of Land Reform. 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 department of Anthropology at University College London, the departments of Zoology and Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, the department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, the Institute for Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool, the Institute for Evolutionary Science at the University of Montpellier, the Centre for Research in Evolutionary Anthropology at Roehampton University London, and the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.

Project Background

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 at Tsaobis Nature Park on the edge of the Namib Desert in central Namibia. Currently, we work with two troops of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) comprising over 120 individuals. Each baboon is individually recognisable, of known age, and of known relatedness to other individuals in the population.

Research on the Tsaobis baboons began in 1990 and has been ongoing on an annual basis since 2000. To date, over 75 scientific publications have been produced from our research, including several articles in the journals NatureCurrent Biology, and Proceedings B.  

Student information:


Since its inception, a variety of research studies have been carried out on the behaviour, ecology, genetics, and health of the Tsaobis baboons. These projects have included studies on cognition, friendships and paternal care, leadership and group coordination, parasite loads, personality, predation risk, social foraging, social networks and social information use, sexual coercion, sexual signalling and mate choice.

Recent completed PhD projects include those by Alice Baniel, Alex Lee, Claudia Martina, and Cassandra Raby.



Baniel A, Webb C, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E. (2021) The submissive pattern of post-conflict affiliation in asymmetric relationships: a test in male and sexually coerced female baboons. Animal Behaviour 175: 87-97 · DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2021.02.014

Dezeure J, Baniel A, Carter AJ, Cowlishaw G, Godelle B, Huchard E. (2021) Birth timing generates reproductive trade-offs in a non-seasonal breeding primate. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 288: 20210286 · DOI 10.1098/rspb.2021.0286

Dezeure J, Dagorette J, Baniel A, Carter AJ, Cowlishaw G, Marshall HH, Martina C, Raby C, Huchard E. (2021) Developmental transitions in body color in chacma baboon infants: implications to estimate age and developmental pace. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 174: 89-102 · DOI 10.1002/ajpa.24118

Martina C, Cowlishaw G, Carter AJ. (2021) Individual differences in task participation in wild chacma baboons. Animal Behaviour 172: 73-91 · DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2020.11.020

Sankey D, O’Bryan L, Garnier S, Cowlishaw G, Hopkins P, Holton M, Fürtbauer I, King AJ. (2021) Consensus of travel direction is achieved by simple copying, not voting,in free-ranging goats. Royal Society Open Science 8: 201128 · DOI 10.1098/rsos.201128


Carter AJ, Baniel A, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E. (2020) Baboon thanatology: responses of filial and non-filial group members to infants’ corpses. Royal Society Open Science 7: 192206 · DOI 10.1098/rsos.192206

Martina C, Cowlishaw G, Carter AJ. (2020) Exploring individual variation in associative learning abilities through an operant conditioning task in wild baboons. PLoS One 15: e0230810 ·DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0230810


Baniel A, Delauney A, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E (2019) Oestrous females avoid mating in front of adult male bystanders in wild chacma baboons. Royal Society Open Science 6: 181009 · DOI 10.1098/rsos.181009

O’Bryan L, Abaid N, Nakayama S, Dey T, King AJ, Cowlishaw G, Rubenstein D, Garnier S (2019) Contact calls facilitate group contraction in free-ranging goats (Capra aegagrus hircus). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7: 73 · DOI 10.3389/fevo.2019.00073

Webb CE, Baniel A, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E (2019) Friend or foe: reconciliation between males and females in wild chacma baboons. Animal Behaviour 139: 37-49 · DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.03.001


Baniel A, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E (2018) Jealous females? Female competition and reproductive suppression in a wild promiscuous primate. Proc. R. Soc. B  285: 20181332  ·  DOI 10.1098/rspb.2018.1332 

Baniel A, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E (2018) Context-dependence of female reproductive competition in wild chacma baboons. Animal Behaviour 139: 37-49  ·  DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.03.001

Douglas CMS, Cowlishaw G, Henschel JR, Pettorelli N, Mulligan M (2018) Identifying the determinants of tree distributions along a large ephemeral river. Ecosphere 9: e02223  ·  DOI 10.1002/ecs2.2223


Baniel A, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E (2017) Male violence and sexual intimidation in a wild primate society. Current Biology 27: 2163-2168  ·  DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.013

Lee AEG, Cowlishaw G (2017) Switching spatial scale reveals dominance-dependent social foraging tactics in a wild primate. PeerJ 5:e3462  ·  DOI 10.7717/peerj.3462


Baniel A, Cowlishaw G, Huchard E (2016) Stability and strength of male-female associations in a promiscuous primate society. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol.70: 761-775  ·  DOI 10.1007/s00265-016-2100-8

Carter AJ, Ticó MT, Cowlishaw G (2016) Sequential phenotypic constraints on social information use. eLife 5: e13125  ·  DOI 10.7554/eLife.13125

Douglas CMS, Mulligan M, Henschel JR, Pettorelli N, Cowlishaw G (2016) Widespread dieback of riparian trees on a dammed ephemeral river and evidence of local mitigation by tributary flows. PeerJ 4: e2622  ·  DOI 10.7717/peerj.2622

Lee AEG, Ounsley JP, Coulson T, Rowcliffe JM, Cowlishaw G (2016) Information use and resource competition: an integrative framework. Proc. R. Soc. B 283: 20152550  ·  DOI10.1098/rspb.2015.2550


Carter AJ,Lee AEG, Marshall HH, Tico MT, Cowlishaw G (2015) Phenotypic assortment in wild primate networks: implications for the dissemination of information. Royal Society Open Science 2: 140444  ·  DOI 10.1098/rsos.140444

Marshall HH, Carter AJ, Ashford A, Rowcliffe JMR, Cowlishaw G (2015) Social effects on foraging behaviour and success depend on local environmental conditions. Ecology and Evolution  5: 475-492  ·  DOI 10.1002/ece3.1377  


Carter AJ,Marshall HH, Heinsohn R, Cowlishaw G. (2014) Personality predicts the propensity for social learning in a wild social primate. PeerJ 2:e283; DOI 10.7717/peerj.283.

Castles M, Heinsohn R, Marshall HH, Lee A, Cowlishaw G, Carter AJ (2014) Social networks created with different techniques are not comparable. Animal Behaviour 96: 59-67.

Sick C, Carter AJ, Marshall HH, Knapp LA, Dabelsteen T, Cowlishaw G (2014) Evidence for varying social strategies across the day in chacma baboons. Biology Letters 10 20140249.

Williams D, Pettorelli N, Henschel J, Cowlishaw G, Douglas C (2014) Alien tree invasion and mammal distribution along an ephemeral river in Namibia. Journal of African Ecology 52: 404-413.


Carter AJ, Feeney WE, Marshall HH, Cowlishaw G, Heinsohn R. (2013) Animal personality: what are behavioural ecologists measuring? Biological Reviews 88: 465-475.

Carter AJ, Marshall HH, Heinsohn R & Cowlishaw G. (2013) Personality only predicts decision-making when information is unreliable. Animal Behaviour 86: 633-639.

Huchard E, Charpentier MJ, Marshall H, King AJ, Knapp LA, Cowlishaw G. (2013) Paternal effects on access to resources in a promiscuous primate society. Behavioural Ecology 24: 229-236.

Marshall HH, Carter AJ, Ashford A, Rowcliffe JMR, Cowlishaw G. (2013) How do foragers decide when to leave a patch? A test of alternative models under natural and experimental conditions. Journal of Animal Ecology 82: 894-902.

Cowlishaw G (2013) Papio ursinus Chacma baboon. In: Mammals of Africa. Volume II: Primates (eds T. Butynski, J. Kingdon, J. Kalina), pp. 225-228. Bloomsbury: London.


Benavides J, Huchard E, Pettorelli N, King AJ, Brown ME, Archer CE, Appleton CC, Raymond M, Cowlishaw G (2012) From parasite encounter to infection: multiple-scale drivers of parasite richness in a wild social primate. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147: 52-63.

Carter AJ, Marshall HH, Heinsohn R, Cowlishaw G (2012a) Evaluating animal personalities: do observer assessments and experimental tests measure the same thing? Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 66: 153-60.

Carter AJ, Marshall HH, Heinsohn R, Cowlishaw G (2012b) How not to measure boldness: demonstration of a jingle fallacy in a wild social primate. Animal Behaviour 84 : 603-609

Marshall HH, Carter AJ, Coulson T, Rowcliffe JM, Cowlishaw G (2012). Exploring foraging decisions in a social primate using discrete-choice models.American Naturalist 180: 481-495.

Marshall HH, Carter AJ, Rowcliffe JM, Cowlishaw G. (2012) Linking social foraging behaviour with individual time budgets and emergent group-level phenomena. Animal Behaviour 84: 1295-1305.

Rands SA, Pettifor RA, Rowcliffe JM & Cowlishaw G (2012) State-dependent foraging rules for social animals in selfish herds. In Anil Seth, Tony Prescott & Joanna Bryson (eds) Modelling Natural Action Selection. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. [reprinted from Proceedings B: Biological Sciences271: 2613-2620.]


Huchard E, Cowlishaw G (2011) Female-female aggression around mating: an extra cost of sociality in a multimale primate society. Behavioural Ecology 22: 1003-1011.

King AJ, Clark FE, Cowlishaw G (2011) The dining etiquette of desert baboons: the roles of social bonds, kinship, and dominance in co-feeding networks. American Journal of Primatology 73: 768-774.

King AJ, Sueur C, Huchard E, Cowlishaw G (2011) A rule-of-thumb based on social affiliation explains collective movements in desert baboons. Animal Behaviour 82: 1337-1345.

Meise K, Keller C, Cowlishaw G, Fischer J (2011) Sources of acoustic variation: implications for production specificity and call categorization in chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) grunts. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 129: 1631-1641.


Célérier A, Huchard E, Alvergne A, Féjan D, Plard F, Cowlishaw G, Raymond M, Knapp LA & Bonadonna F (2010) Detective mice assess relatedness in baboons using olfactory cues. Journal of Experimental Biology 213: 1399-1405. [with commentary]

Huchard E, Alvergne A, Féjan D, Knapp LA, Cowlishaw G & Raymond M (2010) More than friends? Behavioural and genetic aspects of heterosexual associations in wild chacma baboons. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 64: 769-781.

Huchard E, Knapp LA, Wang J, Raymond M & Cowlishaw G (2010) MHC, mate choice and heterozygote advantage in a wild social primate. Molecular Ecology 19: 2545-2561.

Huchard E, Raymond M, Benavides J, Marshall H, Knapp LA & Cowlishaw G (2010) A female signal reflects MHC genotype in a social primate. BMC Evolutionary Biology 10: 96.

Wang J, Brekke P, Huchard E, Knapp L, & Cowlishaw G (2010) Estimation of parameters of inbreeding and genetic drift in populations with overlapping generations. Evolution 64: 1704-1718.


Alvergne A, Huchard E, Caillaud D, Charpentier MJE, Setchell JM, Ruppli C, Fejan D, Martinez L, Cowlishaw G & Raymond M (2009) Human ability to visually recognize kin within primates. International Journal of Primatology 30: 199-210.

Huchard E, Benavides J, Setchell J, Charpentier MJE, Alvergne A, King A, Knapp LA, Cowlishaw G & Raymond M (2009). The importance of shape in sexual signals: evidence from primate sexual swellings. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 63: 1231-1242.

Huchard E, Courtiol A, Benavides J, Knapp LA, Raymond M & Cowlishaw G (2009) Can fertility signals lead to quality signals? Insights from the evolution of primate sexual swellings. Proceedings B: Biological Sciences 276: 1889-1897.

King AJ & Cowlishaw G (2009a) Feeding benefits drive interspecific associations between rock kestrels and desert baboons. Journal of Zoology 277: 111-118.

King AJ & Cowlishaw G (2009b) Leaders, followers, and group decision-making. Communicative and Integrative Biology 2: 2.

King AJ & Cowlishaw G (2009c) All together now: behavioural synchrony in baboons. Animal Behaviour 78: 1381-1387.

King AJ, Isaac NJB & Cowlishaw G (2009) Ecological, social, and reproductive factors shape producer-scrounger dynamics in baboons. Behavioral Ecology 20: 1039-1049.

Zinner d, Groeneveld LF, Keller C, Roos C (2009) Mitochondrial phylogeography of baboons (Papio spp.) – Indication for introgressive hybridization? BMC Evolutionary Biology 9:83.


Huchard E, Weill M, Raymond M, Cowlishaw G & Knapp LA (2008) Polymorphism, haplotype composition, and selection in the Mhc-DRB of wild baboons.Immunogenetics 60: 585-598.

King AJ, Douglas C, Huchard E, Isaac N & Cowlishaw G (2008) Dominance and affiliation mediate despotism in a social primate. Current Biology 18: 1833-1838. [with commentary]

Rands SA, Cowlishaw G, Pettifor RA, Rowcliffe JM & Johnstone RA. (2008) The emergence of leaders and followers in foraging pairs when the qualities of individuals differ. BMC Evolutionary Biology 8: 51.


King A & Cowlishaw G (2007) When to use social information: the advantage of large group size in individual decision making. Biology Letters 3: 137-139.

Huchard E, Cowlishaw G, Raymond M, Weill M & Knapp LAP (2006) Molecular study of Mhc-DRB in wild chacma baboons reveals high variability and evidence for transpecies inheritance. Immunogenetics 58: 805-816.

Rands SA, Pettifor RA, Rowcliffe JM & Cowlishaw G (2006) Social foraging and dominance relationships: the effects of socially-mediated interference.Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 60: 572-581.


Cowlishaw G, Lawes MJ, Lightbody M, Martin A, Pettifor R & Rowcliffe JM (2004) A simple rule for the costs of vigilance: empirical evidence from a social forager. Proceedings B: Biological Sciences 271: 27-33. [related research on samango monkeys, Cercopithecus mitis erythrarcus]

Rands SA, Pettifor RA, Rowcliffe JM & Cowlishaw G (2004) State-dependent foraging rules for social animals in selfish herds. Proceedings B: Biological Sciences 271: 2613-2620.

Rands SA, Cowlishaw G, Pettifor RA, Rowcliffe JM & Johnstone RA (2003) The spontaneous emergence of leaders and followers in foraging groups.Nature 423: 432-434.

Hill RA & Cowlishaw G (2002) Foraging female baboons exhibit similar patterns of antipredator vigilance across two populations. In: Eat or be eaten: predation sensitive foraging in primates (ed LE Miller), pp.187-204. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.


Cowlishaw G (1999) Ecological and social determinants of spacing behaviour in desert baboon groups. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 45: 67-77.

Cowlishaw G (1998) The role of vigilance in the survival and reproductive strategies of desert baboons. Behaviour 135: 431-452.

Cowlishaw G (1997a) Trade-offs between foraging and predation risk determine habitat use in a desert baboon population. Animal Behaviour 53: 667-686.

Cowlishaw G (1997b) Refuge use and predation risk in a desert baboon population. Animal Behaviour 54: 241-253.

Cowlishaw G (1997c) Alarm calling and implications for risk perception in a desert baboon population. Ethology 103: 384-394.

Cowlishaw G & Davies JG (1997) Flora of the Pro-Namib Desert Swakop River Catchment: community classification and implications for desert vegetation sampling. Journal of Arid Environments 36: 271-290.


Cowlishaw G & O'Connell SM (1996) Male-male competition, paternity certainty and copulation calls in female baboons. Animal Behaviour 51: 235-238.

Davies JG & Cowlishaw G (1996) Interspecific competition between baboons and black kites following baboon-ungulate predation in the Namib desert. Journal of Arid Environments 34: 247-249.

Cowlishaw G (1995) Behavioural patterns during baboon group encounters: the role of resource competition and male reproductive strategies. Behaviour 132: 75-86.

O'Connell SM & Cowlishaw G (1995) The post-copulation withdrawal response in female baboons: a functional analysis. Primates 36: 441-446.

Cowlishaw G (1994) Vulnerability to predation in baboon populations. Behaviour 131: 293-304.

O'Connell SM & Cowlishaw G (1994) Infanticide avoidance, sperm competition and mate choice: the function of copulation calls in female baboons.Animal Behaviour 48: 687-694.

young baboon
Tsaobis Baboon

Volunteer Information

Each year, we recruit volunteers to assist with fieldwork on the Tsaobis Baboon Project. There are four positions available for Namibian applicants for the 2023 field season, over periods of 3-6 months, running between 1 May and 31 October. The Tsaobis Baboon Project covers:

  • All costs, including meals, accommodation, and transport
  • All necessary equipment, including binoculars, backpack, and tent
  • Personal insurance
  • A monthly allowance of N$2,000

If you would like more information, or to apply for one of these positions, further details are provided below.

The deadline for applications is 10am Friday 6 January 2023

Apply for a volunteer position

Available Volunteer Positions

Volunteer Field Assistant Positions

Role description

The Tsaobis Baboon Project is a long-term study of wild desert baboons in Namibia. We are currently recruiting Volunteer Field Assistants for our 2023 field season. These positions combine practical research with training and are entirely field-based. The volunteers are trained by and work alongside doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers, assisting with their studies and contributing to the wider research activities of the Baboon Project.

The fieldwork will primarily involve daily follows of baboon troops on foot, collecting data on the behaviour of individually recognisable animals, together with monthly vegetation surveys, and the capture of both study troops to fit GPS collars and collect measurements and samples.

Positions available

We have four Volunteer Field Assistant positions currently available for Namibian applicants, over periods of between 3-6 months. Please note we are not recruiting international volunteers this year.

Positions available Approximate start and end dates Duration
1 x Namibian volunteer 1 May - 31 Oct 6 months
1 x Namibian volunteer 1 May - 31 July 3 months
1 x Namibian volunteer 1 Aug - 31 Oct 3 months
1 x Namibian volunteer 1 Aug - 31 Oct 3 months
What we cover

The Tsaobis Baboon Project covers:

  • All costs, including meals, accommodation, and transport
  • All necessary equipment, including binoculars, backpback and tent
  • Personal insurance
  • A monthly allowance of N$2,000
Who are we looking for?

These positions are open to all with an interest in animal behaviour and ecology. We are particularly keen to hear from applicants who:

  • Are friendly, easygoing people, happy to live in small team under basic conditions at a remote field site
  • Are strongly motivated, reliable and committed
  • Have good levels of physical fitness and stamina - you will be following the baboons on foot from dawn to dusk over mountainous terrain in extreme heat
  • Show good initiative, with a willingness to learn and show attention to detail
What do volunteers get out of it?
  • An amazing opportunity to share the lives of wild baboons in a beautiful desert landscape
  • An opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience, especially those relevant to research in behaviour, ecology, and conservation
  • An opportunity to be involved in a long-term project on African wildlife, hosted by an international research institution and conservation charity
  • Most of our volunteers are graduate students who use their experience on the Baboon Project as a stepping stone on to Masters and PhD degree courses
Further information

For further details about these positions, including the work involved, our living conditions in the field, preparations prior to departure, and what to bring with you, please see below.

How to apply

If you would like to apply, you will need to upload a CV and covering letter, by clicking through to our recruitment page and using the “Apply for this role online” button. If the online application system does not work due to a poor internet connection, you can also apply by e-mail, submitting your CV and covering letter to

The covering letter should explain why you would like to work on the project, specify the volunteer positions to which you are applying, and confirm the earliest/latest dates of your availability. The CV should include the names of two referees with e-mail contact details. The covering letter and CV should be uploaded as a single PDF document, with the covering letter on a separate page preceding the CV.

Closing date for applications: 10am Friday 6 January 2023

We will notify successfully shortlisted candidates by Mon 9 Jan, and interviews will be held at the end of that week on WhatsApp or Zoom on Fri 13 Jan. Applicants are requested to keep this date free for interview. 

The Study Site


Tsaobis has a desert climate, with extreme heat and little rain. It is also very seasonal. Our fieldwork usually takes place over the dry austral winter, between May and October, so although the days are hot the nights are cool (temperatures can fall as low as 0oC in midwinter). From late winter, the days get noticeably longer and hotter, and sporadic thunderstorms become increasingly likely from October onwards.


Tsaobis is a beautiful desert wilderness. The landscape is a mixture of alluvial and gravel plains, rocky hills, and nearby mountain peaks. Most vegetation comprises herbs, small shrubs, and dwarf trees, although the dry sandy bed of the ephemeral Swakop River that cuts through this landscape supports several woodland groves. Following summer rains, the desert springs into life and the baboons forage across the hills and plains. In the winter time, as the summer growth dies back, the baboons forage primarily in the Swakop River woodlands. Throughout the year, the baboons sleep on cliffs in the rocky hills.


Tsaobis is home to a variety of wildlife including mountain zebra, kudu, springbok, klipspringer and, of course, baboons! Predators include jackals and, occasionally, leopards. Birds and reptiles also abound.


Tsaobis is centrally located in Namibia. It is only a 3.5 hour drive from Windhoek (the capital). The nearest town, Karibib, is a one-hour drive away and comprises a petrol station, bank, post office, and basic shops.

Working Conditions

Daily Schedule

Data collection requires full-day follows of the study troops. This ensures that the location of the sleeping cliff used by the baboons each night is known, which in turn facilitates their pick-up by observers early the next morning. If the day begins late, or ends early, the baboons can be lost and may take several days to relocate. Full-day follows require that the field team have already had breakfast, prepared their pack lunches, and are ready to leave camp in good time before dawn; it also means that they will not get back before nightfall. The most distant baboon sleeping cliffs are more than an hour away from camp, so a prompt start in the morning is essential (e.g. 4:30am). The baboons are then accompanied until they reach their sleeping cliff at dusk (e.g. 6pm, returning back to camp by 7pm). Although these are long days, the weekly schedule ensures that there are regular breaks for all the team (see below).

Working with baboons in the Tsaobis landscape

Observers spend the day on foot in the company of the baboons as they traverse the rocky, mountainous terrain around the Swakop riverbed. This landscape is beautiful but also physically demanding. Field team members travel (with backpacks) up to 10km a day, ascending and descending steep hills and slippery scree slopes as they follow the baboons. The baboons are habituated to the presence of human observers, allowing data to be collected from close proximity without causing disturbance, but observers must always act carefully and responsibly when in the company of these wild animals. Data collection is largely conducted with handheld computers. Faecal and urine samples may also be collected on a routine basis. On-site supervision and detailed guidelines will be provided describing how to work with the baboons in this desert landscape.

Environmental surveys and monitoring

At monthly intervals throughout the field season, plant phenology surveys will be conducted. These are an important complement to the baboon behavioural data, since they describe the spatial and temporal availability of the baboons' food patches.

Weekly work schedule

Since data collection from the baboons requires consecutive full-day follows, these "field days" usually take place over two-day stints with an intervening one-day break. The latter are primarily "rest" days, but there will also be some office and general housekeeping duties (e.g. uploading data to the project databases, cooking supper). Trips will be made to Windhoek about once a month for supplies, and volunteers will also be expected to assist occasionally with these trips. Although the field-office/rest day cycle of 2-1 days is the normal routine, this schedule necessarily retains flexibility throughout the field season.

Living Conditions


Accommodation is based around a small two-roomed bungalow. The bungalow has a kitchen, bathroom and office. Members of the field team sleep in their own tents which are pitched under trees close to the bungalow, but use the living area of the bungalow for rest and relaxation.


Field team members prepare their own breakfasts and pack lunches, but for supper we cook communally, with all team members taking turns to prepare the evening meal. Due to limited refrigeration/freezer space, communal food is vegetarian.

Telephone and messaging

Tsaobis has no mobile phone coverage, but the Project has access to the rest camp telephone and wi-fi which usually has a sufficient signal for WhatsApp (without pictures).The project covers the costs of the wi-fi service, but volunteers will need to pay for any phone calls they make at local rates.


Members of the field team may receive visitors at Tsaobis, but volunteers should consult the Project prior to making arrangements as permission from relevant landowners needs to be sought. Care must be taken that visitors do not disrupt the field routine and all plans and arrangements for visitors must be confirmed with the Project Director prior to the visit. Unfortunately, accommodation for visitors cannot be guaranteed at the field site and it will not be possible for visitors to accompany the volunteers when working with the baboons.

Personal Details


There will be various tasks and pieces of paperwork that volunteers must complete before they begin at Tsaobis. These include vaccinations (see below). We will organise personal insurance. In addition, where possible, we encourage volunteers to do a little background reading on baboons before coming to Tsaobis. In particular, Louise Barrett's "Baboons: Survivors of the African Continent" (BBC, 2000) is an excellent introduction to the world of baboons, while Robert Sapolsky's "A Primate Memoir" (recently republished: Vintage, 2019) is a wonderful account of fieldwork with baboons.

Health and safety, general

All volunteers will need to ensure that they are up-to-date with their vaccinations. This should be done as soon as the volunteer has been accepted onto the Project, since some vaccination courses can require several months between the first and last injection. Because our research involves working with wild primates, vaccinations for hepatitis B and rabies must be obtained in addition to the standard vaccinations for Namibia. We will cover the costs of these two additional vaccinations for the Namibian volunteers. 

Health and safety at Tsaobis

Because fieldwork at Tsaobis is conducted on foot and takes place from dawn to dusk, often over difficult terrain, volunteers should be physically fit. Due to the dry desert climate, Tsaobis is a healthy place to work, but volunteers will need to take appropriate steps to avoid dehydration, sunstroke and excessive sun exposure. This includes carrying plenty of water, wearing wide-brimmed hats with appropriate clothing and sunglasses, and the regular application of sunblock.

Health and safety outside Tsaobis

Although the tar and gravel roads in Namibia are generally excellent, all volunteers should drive carefully and at reasonable speed, and never drive at night. Although Namibia is generally a safe country to visit, when in Windhoek (and other urban areas) it is a sensible precaution to stay alert and avoid walking the streets at night, especially alone. For further details on health and safety in Namibia, please refer to the UK Government's travel advice.

What to Bring


Due to the cold nights and hot days of the desert winter, field team members should bring sweatshirts and jumpers as well as light summer clothes. Woolly hat, gloves, and a warm fleece are essential for cold winter mornings and evenings. Field clothes should include long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, in addition to t-shirts and shorts. Avoid wearing dark colours if possible; lighter colours are much cooler. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are essential. A small lightweight waterproof windcheater is also indispensable for windy winter mornings. In addition to field clothes, some smart clothes will also be useful (e.g. for visits to Windhoek). Footwear should include a robust pair of walking boots and a sturdy pair of sandals.


We will loan our Namibian volunteers the following personal equipment as needed, but we encourage you to bring your own gear along if you have it:

  • A tent. Ideally your tent should be three person, since it will also double as your private retreat. A mattress will be available, but your tent will need to be large enough to accommodate it. The mattress dimensions are 190cm x 88cm x 15cm.
  • A 3-season sleeping bag
  • A comfortable backpack for daily use in the field. Ideally bring a backpack with a waist strap as well as shoulder straps, so that the weight of the bag can be carried on the hips rather than the back. Backpacks that are moulded to allow air to pass between the bag and your back (e.g. the Berghaus "freeflow" design) are cool to wear. Backpacks should be a minimum of 25-30 litres volume.
  • A comfortable pair of hiking boots. Ideally these should be lightweight but robust (with ankle support).
  • A good set of binoculars, ideally 8x40 or 10x40. Avoid poor binoculars: they will make your work difficult and frustrating.
  • A spare pair of spectacles (if used)
  • A torch (ideally a head torch)
  • Ankle-length gaiters
  • A simple compass and whistle
  • A sewing kit
  • A water bottle can also be helpful, although most of the time we simply re-use the bottles that come with bottled water and soft drinks.
  • Many previous volunteers have found it useful to bring a laptop, camera, MP3 player, e-reader, and/or books to read. A weather-proof bag, or just a ziplock bag, can be useful to keep valuable electronic equipment safe from dust and sand. Compact/travel games are always welcome, as are DVDs.
  • Field guides can usually be purchased in Windhoek (mammals, birds, trees, herps, etc), and some are also available for reference at Tsaobis.

For personal expenses, volunteers can bring cash, and should also be able to make withdrawals from ATMs using a standard debit card. Credit cards are widely accepted and are recommended for emergencies.