Enjoying a Front Row Seat in the Big Baboon House

Written by Big Baboon House development director Jaco Botha.

Directing Big Baboon House was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. At certain stages it was tough – extremely tough for a variety of reasons, but the crew kept on working with a lot of passion and commitment and eventually, I believe, we achieved a lot of good things.

I think the thing that made Big Baboon House different, and thus also challenging and rewarding, was that we did on a relatively grand scale something that nobody to my knowledge has done before – to film and document what baboons get up to when they break into houses. To see what happens when they find themselves confronted with the joys and puzzles of a human habitat. Obviously by understanding how these baboons think or not, what motivates them and how they operate, could tell us a lot about ourselves as well.

Therefore, my biggest thrill was the first time we filmed the baboons breaking into the Baboon House and so showed proof of concept: that we could study them in very close proximity without having any effect on their ‘natural’ behavior.  You cannot dictate the behavior of wildlife – in this case a semi-habituated troop from Hangklip – and so every time the baboons visited the Big Baboon House felt like a little miracle in itself.

As we got to know individual characters like Limbo and Pipsqueak and Scar, and saw how they responded to the human habitat (the burglar bars, TV, fridge, bed etc.) and some of the obstacles and experiments we threw their way (things like a vending machine used as a stylized Skinner Box), we all felt extremely fortunate to have a front row seat, learning new things about an animal so closely related to us.

And that is my hope for the series: That viewers will be as gob-smacked and amused as we were in seeing the funny, the curious and the outrageous characteristics of our hairy cousins in the up-close-and-personal world of Big Baboon House.


Catch the newest episode of Big Baboon House: Hairy Christmas, Saturday, June 23rd at 10P et/pt.


  1. doreen ingram
    July 2, 2012, 10:29 am

    I cannot wait to see the rest. I laughed and want to see more!!

  2. Mark
    South Africa
    July 2, 2012, 2:18 pm

    Can’t wait to see. Well done Mr Botha

  3. Tracy
    Cape Town
    July 3, 2012, 6:35 am

    I am simply astonished at how ignortant you people are! Feeding them? I happen to have first hand experience with the baboons of Pringle Bay and it is a huge problem! Well done on adding to the problem! Seriously!!

  4. Michelle
    Cape Town / Pringle Bay
    July 3, 2012, 9:58 am

    It is illegal to feed baboons in South Africa. Will it continue to be entertainment if these baboons in Pringle Bay, end up having to be culled due to their increasing aggressive behaviour. Will you be showing that as you “Inspir(e) people to care about the planet since 1888

  5. Lee Jones
    Scarborough, South Africa
    July 10, 2012, 10:08 pm

    Feeding baboons is ILLEGAL unless they are in captivity, or are being transported.
    Please remind me how this travesty – which may well end up in part – or all – of this troop being “euthenized” (killed) – fits into the mission, vision and policies of the National Geographic Society? Are National Geographic going to try to make money from filming the baboons being caught and killed too?