The relationship between artificial food supply and natural food selection in two troops of commensal hamadryas baboons Papio hamadryas (Mammalia: Primates: Cercopithecidae) in Saudi Arabia

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The Hamadryas Baboon is the only nonhuman primate to inhabit the Arabian Peninsula. In Saudi Arabia, Hamadryas Baboons are known to rely on both human and natural plant foods. We examined the relationship between artificial food supply and natural food selection in two commensal hamadryas troops in different habitats in Saudi Arabia. Alhada had richer vegetation, while the Dam Site featured ground vegetation heavily damaged by overgrazing. The baboons' diets, including dependency on artificial foods, reflected the status of the natural habitat. The availability of fresh vegetation following significant rainfalls at both sites reduced the Baboons' dependence on artificial foods. In the richer habitat, rainfall was significantly correlated with natural diet diversity and time spent feeding on natural foods. Both troops spent more time feeding during periods of high provisioning of artificial food, and the percentage of feeding on natural foods decreased when provisioning was high. The baboons fed on natural foods throughout the year despite the availability of human foods. We suggest the need for a nutritionally balanced diet has kept the baboons from becoming completely dependent on human foods. Effectively preserving natural vegetation should enable commensal baboons to spend more time feeding on natural foods, thereby reducing human-wildlife conflict.

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