While the sheep dogs are working hard to protect sheep from jackals and other predators, our post doc, Marion, is working on evaluating the conflict severity between farmers and baboons in the Karoo.
As a reminder: Marion collected hair samples and bones from 50 culled baboons in the Karoo. For the past few weeks, she has been working in the lab to sort out and clean nearly 300 baboon hairs one by one (yes you are reading correctly), to identify meat in baboons diet and its proportion relatively to natural food available in the veld (herbs, young leaves, berries…).
10 hairs with intact bulbs and identifiable growing phases are selected per individual with the help of a microscope. Each sample is carefully labelled with the age, sex and origin of the animal, to find out if some individuals are more likely to eat meat than others. Some long hours in the lab are still required to now cut those hairs in 2cm sections from the bulb (representing roughly the last few months of its diet) and send them into the mass spectrometer to determine their isotopic composition (carbon and nitrogen). The first results should be available by the end of the year and we will keep you updated with Marion’s work.