What is a gelada?
Geladas, often referred to as the gelada baboon and the bleeding-heart baboon, are not actually true baboons. These brown and grey primates are Old World monkeys that do bear some similarities to baboons. Twice the size of females, males are as big as a large dog, and are equipped with vampiric canines, which they often bare at each other as a display of dominance or aggression. Both sexes have large, fluffy manes, as well as distinct, hourglass-shaped, bald patches of skin on their chests.
Where do geladas live?
The gelada is an Old World monkey endemic to the Ethiopian Highlands, with large populations found in the Simien Mountains.
They’re grazing survivors.
Geladas primarily eat leaves and grasses, though they will opportunistically eat fruits, invertebrates and even cereal crops where agriculture abuts their habitat. These grazers are the last surviving species of once-numerous grass-eating primates.
They stay grounded.
Spending almost all of their time on the ground, geladas are the world’s most terrestrial primates—with the exception of humans. Specially adapted to life high up in the mountains, geladas use small ledges on the steep, rocky cliffs to escape predators; they also sleep on these edges huddled together in small groups.
They form large, gregarious groups.
The gelada family unit—a harem—usually consists of one male, three to six related females and their young. Females dominate society, and may decide to replace the male with a younger rival if it suits them. Many harems combine to form troops or bands, which can have as many as 600 individuals. As these monkeys possess one of the most varied vocal repertoires of all primates, these troops can be incredibly noisy.
Geladas are losing the battle for food.
As Ethiopia’s agriculture expands, competition for grazing areas is increasing between geladas and domestic livestock. Geladas are the ones losing ground, being pushed to less productive mountain slopes. Deforestation and soil erosion are also seriously harming their food supply.
People pose a threat.
Humans also take a toll on the gelada population, shooting these monkeys when they are perceived as crop pests, or sometimes capturing them for use as lab animals. Additionally, indigenous peoples use their manes in traditional coming-of-age ceremonies.