As I looked out the tent window at our Land Cruiser, I watched the car shake with energy as something moved around inside it. I knew it wasn’t one of my group members — it had to be an animal. Sure enough, a furry brown head appeared in the open window. It looked at me as if it was suppressing laughter for what it was about to do.
The Chacma baboon jumped out of the car window carrying a bag that contained our entire supply of apples cradled under one of its arms. It sprinted off, spilling apples along the way.
This is just one example of the precautions that must be taken when living in the bush. Our car had semi-functional windows that seemed to have their own thoughts on when they would close. Sometimes during our travels we would forget to remove our supplies from the car when the windows remained ajar. It was like a smorgasbord for the wildlife, and we payed for it with our increasingly plain meal menus.
Like so many times in my adventures within the world of nature and veterinary medicine, I was reminded that we are not necessarily the “top dog” in the world, let alone the only species capable of complex problem solving, planning, and strategy. The baboons of Botswana showed me that they will readily capitalize on our mistakes.
To this day, I can still remember looking into the deep orange-brown eyes of a large male Chacma baboon that was one of our frequent camp-raiders. Those eyes held in them the morning sun of Southern Africa, as well as an intelligence that contained wisps of familiarity and knowing. They contained the essence of curiosity and intelligence.