Emergency Funding for Kasanka Baboon Project

Project: Research project

Project Details


Emergency Funding for Kasanka Baboon Project Emergency Funding for Kasanka Baboon Project Nestled in a remote corner of northern Zambia, the Kasanka Baboon Project (KBP) is the only long-term research site dedicated to the Kinda baboon (Papio kindae) and the only long-term primate research site in Zambia. The most recently described baboon species, Kindas are unusual in their degree of behavioral and morphological divergence from other baboons and provide a valuable comparative perspective for understanding hominin diversification and evolution. Since KBPs establishment in 2010, our team has collected near-daily behavioral observations on a group of ~85 habituated and individually known Kindas in Kasanka National Park (KNP) while building a sustainable framework for Zambian scientist and student engagement. Our ability to answer evolutionary questions depends on continuous monitoring of individually recognizable, known Kindas over their lifetimes; a substantial interruption in data collection could result in de-habituation of known individuals and undermine the potential of our site to produce insights that come only from decades of long-term individual monitoring. Baboons have long been considered valuable comparative models for human evolution due to their similar population history (Zinner et al. 2009; Rogers et al. 2019) and their morphological, behavioral, and ecological flexibility (Jolly 2001; Henzi and Barrett 2003; Elton 2006). As the smallest and most gracile of all extant baboon species, Kindas possess strong parallels to the socio-sexual suite of traits exhibited by Ardipithecus ramidus in early hominin evolution following the divergence from great apes (Lovejoy 2009). Our research has demonstrated that, compared to other baboons, Kindas exhibit little body-size sexual dimorphism, high levels of reproductive seasonality, and low levels of intra-male aggression (Weyher et al. 2014; Petersdorf et al. 2019). These qualities are shared with humans, making Kinda baboons a compelling analog for human socioecology and evolution. Such a framework provides a useful model for elucidating how distinctly human features arose from heterogeneous populations exhibiting variation in size, shape, and behavior. For over a decade, our field site has been collecting data that will permit us to test explicit hypotheses about the suites of selective pressures that have shaped Kinda evolution. Our Zambian field manager and assistants collect long-term demographic, behavioral (e.g., aggressive and affiliative behaviors, sexual behaviors, infant development), ecological (e.g., habitat use, diet, ranging), and non-invasive biosample data (e.g., fecal samples for parasite, microbiome, genetic, and hormone analysis). Ongoing projects leveraging these long-term data include: (1) infant development and maternal rank, (2) microbiome and habitat use, (3) sexual selection and reproductive life-histories, and (4) inter- and intra-sex social relationships. Results of these projects were accepted for presentation at the 2020/2021 Meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and are currently in preparation for publication. Our research relies on uninterrupted continuous data on our focal population; a substantial gap in 2 data collection, as the one we are facing now, would undermine our ability to produce novel insights on Kinda baboon evolution and would endanger the persistence of the only Kinda field site in the world.
Effective start/end date5/7/216/6/22


  • Leakey (Louis S. B.) Foundation: $25,000.00


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