Independence Day, New Arrivals, and a Theory of Kinda Baboon Natal Coat Color
By: Elizabeth Winterton
Independence Day – 24th October 2012
Chongololo Club Play:
As part of the project’s work at Kafinda Basic School we also participate in the schools ‘Chongololo
Club’. A government initiative, the clubs aim to increase awareness about conservation and
This term, I asked the club to write a play about local conservation, focussing on some of the animals
found within Kasanka National Park and the neighbouring Bangweulu Wetlands. The animals chosen
were the elephant, sitatunga, straw-coloured fruit bat and the shoebill. As well as information about
the animal itself, such as physical characteristics, diet, and threats to its conservation, the students
wrote poems about conserving the animals, and were going to perform a poaching sketch and
various songs and dances.
The students chose to perform the play on Zambia National Independence Day, so after rounding-up
some of Kasanka’s volunteers and management team we set off for what we thought was going to
be an excellent play (I had seen a rehearsal, and it was great!).
Unfortunately after all the anticipation, and after watching a few hours of all the other school’s
clubs performing, it turned out that half of the Chongololo Club hadn’t turned up because they
were Jehovah Witnesses and didn’t celebrate Independence Day, so therefore the play couldn’t be
shown!! Bit of a disappointment.
So we’re still awaiting the actual play, and planning a date when they can come down to Kasanka to
One of the dances
Some of the costumes from the dress rehearsal
After losing to the school’s team back in June, it was time for our Girl’s club to have revenge.
With a team made up of Selina, Charity, Victoria, Agness, Leah, Abia and Angela (a last-minute sub
for me) we were looking pretty good and got off to a great start. After being told I was only going to
play for 5 minutes in the 2nd half (apparently I didn’t impress with my last performance, but note I
was unwittingly at the start of a bout of malaria!), I actually surpassed all expectations and managed
to play for the full 15 minutes!! Unfortunately though my energetic burst didn’t help us too much,
and in the end we lost 13-6.
The winning shot
The Team: Selina, Me, Leah
Abia, Charity, Angela, Agness, Victoria
BATS, BATS AND MORE BATS
Kasanka is known for 2 things; the sitatunga, and the World’s largest mammal migration (in terms of
biomass). These mammals are the straw-coloured fruit bats, which arrive from the DRC towards the
end of October and roost in Kasanka until the beginning of January when they fly back to the DRC.
When I was told we’d have up to 10 million bats arriving I couldn’t quite comprehend what that
would look like, and now they are here it’s even harder to comprehend. Every evening around 6pm a
continual wave of bats fills the sky, and it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed.
Living at Fibwe, I’m lucky enough to see this spectacle every night as the bats roots only a few
kilometres away from camp, and it never fails to amaze.
The baboons don’t seem to be too disturbed by this sudden influx of mammals into their home
range, however the vehicles packed with tourists arriving at 4.30am each morning does seem to
be affecting their activity patterns with them now leaving the mushitu around 6am every morning
which means extremely early starts for us researchers!
The bats leaving their roost for a night of feeding (all the black dots are bats!)
In the last few weeks we’ve had a few new additions to the project….
Firstly, I want to give a big warm welcome to Aileen Sweeney who is to be the new camp manager
for the coming year.
Secondly, the last baby for this year has been born! Indigo, the daughter of Norah has given birth to
her first child. A healthy black infant, this brings our total number of births this year to 12 (not bad
considering we only have 18 adult females in the troop!), with 5 white, 3 black, 1 grey and 3 mixed
Aileen at Kinda Camp
Indigo with her new baby, being groomed by Norah
THE GENETICS OF COLOUR
One thing that is so baffling about the Kindas is the huge variety of colour in infants. All other
baboon species have black infants, so why do Kindas also have white, grey and mixed coloured
infants? The white infants in particular stand out hugely in the forest and therefore appear to be
under much greater threat from predators, so what fitness benefits must there be to counteract
this? Another question raised is how are they different colours in the first place?
This question has perplexed me over the last week as I was 90% sure Indigo’s baby would be white
as 2 of her siblings (the other was born before research started) were born white, so I would assume
she was also born white and therefore would be a strong carrier for the gene.
But what about mixed and grey infants? They must be a mix of black and white genes, but why
would one infant have a black head and a white body, and another be completely grey? Could there
then be co-dominance or even multiple alleles??
After a thorough look through an A-level biology text book(!), and the assumption that grey is indeed
different to black and white, we (Myself and Aileen) have come up with the following theory…
Kinda baboon’s genes for colour have multiple alleles, with the black and white alleles being co-
dominant, and the grey allele being recessive to both the black and white alleles.
As an example; if a female is dominant for the black allele, but is a carrier of the grey allele, and her
male mating partner is dominant for the white allele and a carrier of the grey allele, you would get
the following ratio of offspring;
1 mixed(black and white):1 white:1 black:1 grey
If you assume grey is different to mixed you cannot get this distinction if black and white alleles were
just co-dominant as only a mixed infant could be born.
White (MJ’s infant)
Black (Indigo’s infant)
Mixed (Ella’s infant)
Grey (Roseanne’s infant)
Anyone want to fund the research so we can find out whether our theory is correct!?? Maybe this
could lead to the Kindas being classed as a species in their own right rather than just a sub-species…
*** Side note from Anna...The Kasanka Baboon Project considers Kinda Baboons to be its own species.