I (on the right) look less than amused as a young baboon tries to groom me!
Baboons were one of the key animals at the wildlife sanctuary and they were there in abundance. Unfortunately, mother baboons are shot frequently by farmers and their orphaned offspring are then rescued. The baboons then go through several stages and become part of a troop at the sanctuary.
The first stage is the baby stage, where the young baboons need bottle-feeding several times a day, and an adopted human-mother to take care of them at night. During the day, these babies will stay with other young baboons of a similar age and will experience frequent interaction with people.
When they are old enough, they will move to the second stage where they no longer need hand-feeding or looking after so much. They will stay with the rest of the troop but will still have contact with people who will take them on walks. These are called the 'big babies'.
Finally, when the baboons are old enough, they will have less contact with people but will still go on walks. They will live in a huge enclosure in a big troop.
The baboons were troublesome, especially the big babies! When walking them, they would climb up you and hitch a ride, and sometimes even poop whilst on you! They also had fun grooming us. It was good fun.
A 'big baby' baboon, having fun on my shoulders
Baby Koos, who I looked after one night
In my second week, I decided to put my name down on the list to be an adoptive human-parent to one of the baby baboons. I was terrified but I thought that I couldn't not do it. If I left the sanctuary having not experienced this, I would probably regret it. I requested Koos who was meant to be the easiest baboon to look after.
The day came! I picked Koos up one evening and put a little nappy on him. I had to cut a whole in the nappy so that his little tail could poke through. He seemed comfortable enough. I then had to make his milk formula for him. This was complicated but I made sure that I had someone helping me with it. It had to be exactly the right temperature, otherwise it may not agree with his tummy.
I had purchased a zip-up hoody that day which would be perfect for him. Baby baboons like to hold onto your tummies, wrapped up warm, so I thought this would be great. I could zip it up to keep him warm but easily unzip it to check how he is and give him his bottle.
It was so cute. He just settled down inside my hoodie. I passed him the bottle and he just curled up, gently feeding from his bottle. He fell asleep shortly after so was very easy to look after for the rest of the evening.
The night was not as easy. He fell asleep okay but in the night I decided to change his nappy so took him to the bathroom. Poor Koos had a funny tummy - maybe the bottle had been the wrong temperature. I cleaned him off and he let out a few cries of protest. I got him changed into a clean nappy and we resumed sleeping. He was a little fidget. One minute he was sleeping on my tummy, the next on my head. I found myself waking up constantly to check he was okay.
I took him to the bathroom again in the morning and his tummy was still funny. It didn't go so smoothly and my jumper got covered in poop. Oh, dear! I took him to join his play-mates and the guides asked how the night went. I told them about his funny tummy. They didn't seem too concerned - I presumed this must happen quite a bit, especially considering I was warned about it happening. Needless to say, I had to get changed out of my clothes.
It had been a great experience but I can safely say, I'm not ready for motherhood yet!