Baboon Woman

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Baboon Woman
Starring Karin Saks
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 1 (as of April 21, 2009)
Running time 60 minutes (including commercials)
Original network Five
Original release April 21, 2009 – present

Baboon Woman is a wildlife documentary starring Karin Saks.



In South Africa, baboons have historically been treated as pests and are persecuted. As human development continues to encroach on natural habitats, the war between humans and non-human primates in South Africa, is increasing. Non-lethal methods to manage perceived "problem" non-human primates are encouraged by a number of baboon experts in South Africa.[1]
The documentary - Baboon Woman - highlights the struggle between humans and wildlife living in close proximity; illustrating the responses of gun toting farmers, baboon experts, and residents who are frustrated at having their property raided by baboons. A farmer interviewed admits to shooting about five baboons a week in spite of the fact that this method does not deter baboons from raiding his crops. Residents who live in areas where baboon/human conflict is unusually magnified because human development has cut the baboons off from other more natural areas, are divided in their opinions which range from deterring baboons from human properties using acceptable non-lethal methods and enjoying having the baboons visit human homes. One of Saks' main goals is to break down the misconceptions about non-human primates, this being one of the greatest threats.

Shot baboon.jpg

Karin Saks' work[edit]

Karin Saks has rescued, fostered and rehabilitated individual orphaned and injured vervet monkeys and chacma baboons. Most of the primates in her care have been orphaned after their mothers were shot by humans. When Karin receives an ill baby baboon to foster, his potential future to be returned into the wild is followed, resulting in him interacting with two wild troops. One of these troops naturally starts to accept him when he begins to interact with individuals who visit the land where Karin, her partner and a number of rescued non-human primates reside. The documentary focuses on Karin's work with baboons; she observes their behaviour, fosters their young, and has a passion about them.

Of special interest is an interview with a woman of San descent[2]//who describes a time when the San lived in harmony with baboons, shared their food and learnt about medicinal herbs from them, illustrating a potential for harmonious co-existence that has been replaced with a modern-day culture that attempts to eliminate - and choose not to use non-lethal methods - any species that threatens the economical interests of modern society. An interview with Karin's colleague Gareth Patterson who is best known for his work with lions,[3] echoes the theme of conflict between the environment and human development, supporting Saks' work which Patterson describes as "pioneering".

In the documentary she describes how interacting closely with baboons has revealed a lost part of the self; this is illustrated in a diary excerpt written when she first interacted with a wild troop of baboons while releasing a foster baby orphan;

"My mind’s forest had formed new paths, heading towards a profound new worldview. Near a small town called Naboomspruit in 1998 where I’d been introducing my foster baboon infant - Gismo - to a troop of 17 chacma baboons on a private reserve named Mosdene, something internal had stirred and woken up. Admittedly, it was a personal journey. One that life had blessed me in particular with, but it spoke of much more, offering a unique glimpse into our place within the rest of nature. More importantly, it revealed what we’d lost and how to retrieve it."

— Karin Saks

Darwin Primate Group[edit]

Karin Saks founded the DARWIN PRIMATE GROUP - a registered non-profit organisation - in 2007, to continue her work with South African wild primates.[1]


In 2003 Penguin Publishers published the book, Life With Darwin by Fransje van Riel [3], about Karin Saks' experiences with baboons. In several of the anecdotes told in the documentary, Saks is expanding on these experiences.

More recently, her baboon work was acknowledged in Wendy Woodward's book - The Animal Gaze, published in 2008.


External links[edit]