Chowdhury, Shahrina, Brown, Janine, and Swedell, Larissa. 2020. "Anthropogenic effects on the physiology and behaviour of chacma baboons in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa." Conservation Physiology 8:coaa066-coaa066. https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/coaa066
As animals increasingly occupy habitats in proximity to humans, with home ranges a mosaic of natural and anthropogenic landscapes, it becomes imperative from a conservation perspective to understand the impacts of human activities on wildlife. Many non-human primates share habitats with humans, an ability stemming largely from shared ecological needs due to our close evolutionary relationship. Such proximity, however, is often accompanied by direct conflict between humans and wildlife, leading to higher stress levels, injuries, mortality and behavioural changes, with detrimental effects on long-term health and fitness. Glucocorticoid (GC) hormones, which are released in response to ecological and social challenges, are increasingly employed to understand responses to anthropogenic disturbance. Here we investigate physiological and behavioural responses of female chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) to variation in spatial overlap and conflict with humans in their natural home range. The baboons resided in the Tokai Section of Table Mountain National Park in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa, where their home range included four types of habitats: protected, suburban, agricultural and mosaic areas. We studied the largest group of baboons in Tokai (70 individuals) and examined the effects of ranging in these different habitats on the faecal GCs and behaviour of all adult females in the troop (N = 16).We found time spent ranging in more anthropogenic habitats to be associated with higher levels of GCs, more aggression, less time socializing and shorter grooming bouts. Self-directed behaviour, however, varied and did not necessarily reflect physiological measures of stress. Taken together, the results of this study highlight the risks associated with ranging in anthropogenic environments and point to the need for a multifaceted approach to studying the negative impacts of human activities on animals so as to better inform conservation practices.