Chimps and gorillas have a certain charisma and books, even research works about them are well known and have reached a popular audience. But what about baboons? In some ways they are more like us than the tree-dwelling primates. They too are largely ground-bound and live in complex social groups.
To study savannah baboons, Robert camped in the home territory of one clan, living a very simple life for weeks at a time over 20 years, often his only human contact a fellow scientist, also studying a much maligned creature; "Lawrence of the Hyenas" one valley over.
He admires the leaders of the baboon clan over the years that he studies them, but he learns most from the less socially competent members. Living on the Serengeti is a tough game. If you are not fast or big you need family and friends; fellow baboons that reciprocate aid; who will babysit if you need time out or will take your side in an argument and who know you will do the like for them. Naked social politics.
Title: A primate's memoir ; A neuroscientist's unconventional life among the baboons.
Author: Robert M. Sapolsky
Reviewed by Christine O, Takapuna Library.
Christine O has worked in North Shore libraries for over 20 years. She likes her fiction to be credible and her nonfiction to be accessible.