William

As told by Jenni Trethowan

William of Scarborough was one of my all-time favorite males. He was a huge, gorgeous boy who had a very special bond with his little sister, Angelina.

Originally from the Da Gama troop, when William reached adulthood he left his natal troop and went looking for a new troop to join; this is typical of young male baboons. William challenged Eric of Slangkop for dominance over Eric’s troop and after a long, cunning battle William settled in as alpha male of the Slangkop troop.

Angelina had stayed with the Da Gama troop as female baboons normally do, but two things happened to change her life. When her mother was shot and killed, although she was close to a number of females, she was often on her own. Then she was injured – a bad head injury that entailed some weeks of recovery before she returned to her troop.

Her skull was fractured in 3 places causing temporary blindness, and she twirled in slow circles like a ballerina whenever she tried to stand – hence her name, Angelina Ballerina.

I was very worried about Angelina when she was released, and was anxious that she was managing, so you can imagine my distress when after one wild, winter storm, the baboon monitors reported her missing.

Angelina recovering from her head injury

We all searched frantically – only to discover that Angelina had walked across the mountain to join William in his new troop. This was very unusual, but William kept a close brotherly eye on his sister, and she settled in with the new troop.

Sadly, Angelina was one of three young baboons who died of poisoning that year. I know that many scientists say we should not attribute human emotion to primates but I think we can easily see a wide range of emotions in all animals.

Never more so than William; after Angelina died he left the Slangkop troop. This was inexplicable; he was settled as the alpha, and there had been no new challengers confronting him, but he just left. I could only put it down to the fact that Angelina had died.

After a while William appeared in the Scarborough troop where he again gained alpha status. Sadly, William the Conqueror was also adept at raiding houses. Despite the fact that the residents of Scarborough voted overwhelmingly against William being killed, in 2010 he was the second baboon killed under the protocol introduced to reduce raiding.