Cape Peninsula, South Africa

Dr. Larissa Swedell is a founding member of the Cape Peninsula Baboon Research Unit (BRU), a collection of scientists conducting research on the largely commensal population of baboons in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. This research encompasses various aspects of baboon biology, including ecology, behavior, genetics and physiology.

Photo credit: Larissa Swedell

The Cape Peninsula baboon population consists of 14 troops residing in the Table Mountain National Park and surrounding urban areas, from the Tokai Forest in the southern suburbs of Cape Town to Cape Point at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula.  The troops vary in size from about 7 to 70 individuals, and the population as a whole is cut off from other baboon populations by the urban sprawl surrounding the city of Cape Town.  Like many baboon populations across Africa, the baboon population in the Cape Peninsula is under increasing pressure from human habitation, with commensalism and conflict between humans and baboons becoming increasingly prevalent.  Part of the goal of BRU as a research group is to generate information on baboon ecology that will aid in conservation and management of this and other baboon populations.  Recent research topics include the impact of human behavior on baboon behavior and ecology (A. van Doorn, E. Beamish), ranging patterns and habitat use (T. Hoffman), marine foraging ecology (M. Lewis), baboon deterrent strategies (B. Kaplan), parasite transmission between baboons and humans (D. Ravasi), population genetics (J. Bishop), and social and environmental causes and mitigators of stress (S. Chowdhury).  CUNY/NYCEP student Shahrina Chowdhury recently finished her doctoral research on the stress mitigating effects of social relationships in three of the Tokai troops under the supervision of Larissa Swedell, and former Columbia/NYCEP student Steffen Foerster is currently collaborating with Swedell on a post-doctoral project focusing on proximate pathways of stress mitigation in two of these troops.  For more information about this research, see the Tokai page on Swedell's website.