Gelada baboons are a noteworthy member of the primate family, a fascinating and diverse group of mammals known for their intelligence, sociability, and their close genetic relations to humans. Like us, the amazing gelada baboons are a species of primate known to live in close-knit family groups, but can also inhabit shockingly vast communities consisting of hundreds of individuals. These creatures are renowned for their ability to coexist with one another peacefully in such large groups, a relatively rare achievement in the wilds of Africa.
Geladas are rare among primates for many reasons, the most obvious of which is their unique, graminivorous diet. Using their incredible intelligence, they are able to communicate with one another, and even perform organized raids of human crops. These are only a few facts about gelada baboons that make them such exquisite animals.
Geladas are known for their excessively vegetarian lifestyle. They are graminivores, meaning their diet consists of 90% grass. They are the only living primates who live off almost entirely on grass, a trait more common in ungulates like deer and cattle than monkeys. Grass isn’t the richest source of food in nature, so geladas must eat constantly to get the nutrients they need to survive. To supplement their diet, geladas will eat flowers and dig into the ground to get at the nutrient rich roots below the surface. According to the BBC special Monkey Planet, geladas can spend up to 10 hours every day gorging themselves on grass, meaning they are eating for most of their waking life.
To make sure they are eating only the finest blades of grass, geladas have developed an impressive thumb and index finger known as the most advanced of all primates besides human beings. They can use their nimble fingers to pluck individual blades of grass from the ground, and they have proven to be picky eaters. If a blade seems too dry, they will pass it over for one that looks a bit more fresh. This adaptation and keen eye for quality allows the geladas to maximize their daily nutritional intake.
Like all primates, geladas are highly intelligent creatures with the ability to perform some levels of higher reasoning. They also have the ability to communicate with one another, and can even organize raiding parties to try and steal food from farmers. Though conflict with humans has increased, the situation has come to a head when humans started farming on the gelada's native land. With their feeding grounds disappearing, geladas are at a higher risk of starvation and may be performing these high-risk raids as an act of desperation.
While many primates are known to live in extended social groups, geladas take it a step further than most. While gelada families can be quite large in their own right, when families come together they can create massive mega-herds that fill the mountain meadows. Up to 1,200 geladas can gather together in a single location, which is one of the largest gathering of primates outside of human settlements. Because they are primarily grazers and grass is a plentiful resource in their environment, geladas can exist together in extremely large groups without creating any significant levels of competition between them.