The Belle of the Baboon Ball

Most parents are proud, as well as quite relieved, when their child succeeds as an individual. These feelings are no different when that child is a baboon (I mean this literally, not figuratively). I left Betty and Malawi over a month ago with an agonizing sense of guilt. Did I really teach her any life skills? Leaning to crack peanuts was one of our favorite activities, but unless she was planning to move to a peanut farm in Georgia, she was out of luck–peanuts are not indigenous to the African bush. But then again, at some point in her life, there would be other shells or husks to force open.



Betty still loves Bananas


On the long flight home I asked myself some hard questions. Was our time together more about me than her? What would happen if the awaiting baboon family didn’t accept her? Would I want to know the truth, or prefer to envision the fantasy world I had created, where her days would be spent in the sun surrounded by attentive admirers fighting over grooming privileges. In another scenario I would return to Malawi where she would run into my arms, squeaking in delight, her claws carefully tucked in and her powerful jaw only used for kisses.



I couldn’t bring Betty back to Mexico, even though she would love spending her days in the restaurant’s garden, swinging from the avocado tree to the fruit-laden guava branches before jumping onto the banana palms. Where, holding on to its sturdy trunk, she would reach for the familiar yellow fruit. El Buen Cafe’s patio wouldn’t be such a bad place for an orphaned baboon, but Betty needed to be with her own kind and in her own country.

When I got news from the Wildlife Center a few days ago that Betty had finally left the security of her cage and was now successfully living with the troop, I was overjoyed. She passed her socialization test and was now the most popular baboon in the bush. I was prouder than any mother could be, knowing Betty made the tricky transition and now had an extended family to play with, but more importantly to protect her.



Betty with her Admirers

Remke, the Dutch woman who took over Betty’s care when I left, explained that our little girl was in demand, all the young baboons wanted to be her friend. The females acknowledged the newcomer, scooping Betty up in their arms when necessary. The biggest challenge, though, was Cornelius, the alpha male, who was separated from the troop for a few days until everyone met and welcomed Betty. He would make or break the deal, endangering her short life, if he didn’t like her. However, my charming girl won him over as well. Did my motherly coos confirming that she was the most beautiful baboon baby in the world help build her confidence?

When a customer at the cafe recently saw a picture of Betty on my computer, she gasped, “What is that creature? It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.” I wanted to hurl the woman out of the building, preferably from the third floor, but lucky for her the house has only one story. I do admit Betty’s ears are a little large, but she will grow into them; the pink bottom will darken, but it’s there to stay. She’s almost doubled in size at six months, as well as become a stunning blond almost overnight.

Some of you are probably thinking–enough about baboons already! So, now that Betty is safe and has a family of her own we can focus on food again and leave Africa behind, at least until my next primate parenting adventure.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply