Living with Baboons

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Natural World, 2012-2013 Episode 1 of 10

Duration: 59 minutes

The wild Hamadryas Baboons of Ethiopia have a friend in biologist Mat Pines, they even pick the nits from his hair. He's been studying and living with them for five years in the remote and arid Awash National Park. Now in his final year, we follow the fortunes of his favourite baboon 'Critical' as he tries to find a family and fend off his aggressive male rivals. But the local gun-toting Afar tribe have a traditional hatred of the baboons. Before Mat leaves, he hopes to broker a peace between the baboons and the tribe.

  • Getting close to baboons

    Getting close to baboons

    By producer Rob Sullivan

    By walking slowly, avoiding eye contact, and making submissive noises we were able to get within a few feet of the baboons. Over the course of a year we observed some incredible behaviour and really got to know some of the baboons well, following individual stories across several months.

    During the dry season there were some very long days, walking 20 miles a day in 42 degree heat with kit and we often lost the baboons in thick Acacia. But we returned every night to bathe in the hot springs and listen to hyenas and the occasional lion roaring in the night.

    Watch baboons groom a man
  • Working with the notorious Afar tribe

    By producer Rob Sullivan

    Working with the Afar tribe required a very gentle approach. Apart from the fact that they all carry AK47s, they are infamous for cutting off the testicles of outsiders. I’ve worked a lot with Bruce Parry and even he warned me to be careful with the Afar.

    After a few meetings without cameras, and a great deal of chewing chat, they agreed to cooperate and the barriers started to come down. After almost a year filming with them, I now see them as kind, warm and tough people who just want to raise their cattle and children in their traditional ways.

    Watch the web exclusive of an Afar wedding


David Attenborough
Rob Sullivan
Rob Sullivan
Series Editor
Steve Greenwood
Mat Pines


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