Meet the Baboons of the Big Baboon House

A small town in South Africa is overrun by a troop of rambunctious baboons, so Nat Geo WILD has undertaken a simian social experiment of a lifetime to understand their behavior. We’ve built a house designed to study the baboons so we can learn how to keep them out of homes and coexist peacefully with their human counterparts… all while having a little fun along the way as we observe these baboons having free reign over a posh house. As we watch these baboons day after day, their personalities and differences really begin to take shape. We put together this handy little guide for you to get to know the stars of the Big Baboon House.

Who’s your favorite baboon in the troop? Be sure to check out video clips from the upcoming series to see them in action.


Rambo is a muscular, dominant male.  He’s street smart and a bully who makes others do his dirty work.  He likes to be in   charge and has no problem using force to get what he wants. But he’s also lazy, often choosing to sit out food  competitions,  knowing the can beat the treats out of the winner later. Nookie is his main squeeze.




Rocky is a dominant male but not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.  While no rocket scientist, he comes out swinging when his back is against the wall, and is in the mix during every competition.  He’s definitely a baboon you’d want on your side in a fight… unless it’s a spelling bee.




Lefty is a submissive male who lost his left arm in fierce battle… or a hunting accident, depending on who you ask. He’s a lovable loner who spends most of the day by himself, foraging for scraps that the others leave behind. Having only one arm has made him clever and he often can do things with one hand that others can’t do with two. He has a passionate love of the theatre, and while he can’t show his appreciation is a traditional manner, he’s always clapping on the inside.




Harry is a strong, noble dominant male. He’s an excellent leader, well liked by the other baboons. While others clamor for power, he bides his time and waits until he has a strategic advantage before trying to become Top Banana. He does well with the ladies, and refers to his muscular arms as his “44 Magnums.”




Cheeky is a young make who’s clever and crafty and often outsmarts the larger, more dominant baboons.  His favorite food is oranges and he has a weakness for blondes. He’s also one of the few smaller baboons to trash talk the big boys, knowing he can usually elude them with evasive maneuvers.




Ziggy & Ray are a loving and committed couple who are always seen together.  They hope to one day make their union legal, even though some of their troop mates don’t approve of their relationship. But no matter who tries to come between them, Ziggy just can’t quit Ray.




Nookie is an adult female who is attracted to strong, powerful baboons like Rambo. Or any other hairy hunk who passes by. She’s not above using her feminine wiles to get what she wants from the opposite sex. Or even the same sex. Or Rikki the Mongoose. She doesn’t get much love from her female troop mates, who refer to her as “The Hairy Harlot” and insist she’s had “work” done.



Scar is a dominant male and has a “battle wound” under his left eye.  He won’t admit it, but some of his troop mates think he got the mark by being clocked with a beer bottle at a Lady Gaga concert. Scar is in the middle of every major battle for top banana, but can’t seem to figure out that brute strength is not enough, and he refuses to play the political game.




Rikki is a mongoose; call him a rodent at your peril. He dreams of a career as a hip-hop artist, but others in the animal kingdom insist he doesn’t have enough “street cred,” having been raised in a middle class bungalow in the suburbs. His hyperactive energy can be annoying, but if a snake shows up he’s a helpful guy to have around.



Check out Big Baboon House, a 3-part mini-series premiering on Saturday, June 23rd at 8P, 9P, and 10P.



  1. Darrell (AKA "Scar!"
    Albany, CA
    June 20, 2012, 9:51 am

    Can’t wait for the “Red Asses” to do their thing… especially
    the one named after me (or is it the other way around?) You
    definitely have a winner here! Jon, I’m proud that you’ve turned into the perv I always thought you would be!!!

  2. Christina
    Fresno, CA
    June 24, 2012, 4:28 pm

    Why would you personify wild animals and exploit them just to get ratings. These are species that are threatened in the wild from the rampant consumption of all the worlds resources by us humans. This “study” of how they must raid a house which is most likely because their own habitat has been eliminated by urban sprawl, in order to survive on extremely unhealthy human goods is to degrade their inate importance and disrespect this animal as well as sexualize their natural behaviors. This is a slap in the face of all conservationalists, biologists and anyone who empathizes with the plight of our natural world. Shame on you National Geographic for supporting such a horrible representation of baboons.

  3. Spider
    June 29, 2012, 2:11 pm

    For the benefit of those who would actually like to know the truth about The Baboon they call “Lefty” in these pics, he has been given this name cause of how you see him as presented, but how he actually became this way is because on one of the specific long weekends at The Hangklip area where many people go for a relaxing weekend and to enjoy some of the God given fruits of our land, such as, Crayfish,Cob, Geelbek Fish etc, when the time is right, and of course not to forget about the weather. A family was visiting for a weekend with their children and were warned not to feed the baboons but as you must know it is not that easy to explain to your children not ot do some things. Because they were having fun to see the baboons close-up they fed these baboons that were there at the time, until came the time that they had some food in their hand/s that they didn’t want to share with them, they become very arrogant and no matter what you do if they are hungry they will make an advance at you in an aggressive manner to get to that thats in your hand/s. And so this is what happened then at the time. With this occurance the father of the children got very irrate and said this was not on, so he went to his chalet and collected his revolver and shot at this baboon and wounded him in the arm. With this limb of his hanging and hindering him from getting arround as freely as normal, these animals have a born in habit/instinct of tending to their injuries in a very, inhumane and gruly fashion in our eyes, but humane in their manner of surviving and “chewed” the dangling part his limb off. This is true because I happened to be working at The Hangklig on that particular weekend. These animals are one of the most intellegent creatures on our planet and one of the most selfish I have ever seen. They do not share anything with the others in their group, and this includes the fact that they do not share their woman with any of the other males. They know how to surbive in whatever inviroment they are subject to. So to survive it is very convenient for them to look for an easy meal and because the “Human” has given them this taste of the type of norishments we consume they have become acustom to what we eat and drink and have this tendancy of looking for the easiest meals they lay their hands on, even if it means going into those areas where it is thrown away, like dumps etc and have developed such a uncanny way of getting into residence in those areas where they live. For example they have worked out how and found ways of opening windows with their unbelievably strong fingers and are able to actually lift aluminium sliding doors off their rails and push that door to one side to get into that house. We who actually live in these areas where the baboons live are or have not reduced their habitat but have come to accept this way of life without culling them or exploiting them. We love them and hate them but have no wish to get rid of them. It’s uncanny how peoples thoughts differ about them but we forget that, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”, we used to look like that, according to all our ancesteral background.

  4. Jenny Stark
    Rooi Els village
    July 2, 2012, 4:43 am

    I live in the village next to Pringle Bay and, over the past decade, have been involved in educating and encouraging residents in our villages to find ways to live in harmony with the baboons. It is a real challenge to keep them out of our homes and requires constant vigilance. One slip is enough to bring them back to our homes. What National Geographic has done in deliberately baiting baboons into a house in Pringle Bay has undermined years and years of effort on our part and that of the residents. I am astonished that your magazine allows itself to be associated with such unethical practises.

  5. Ruth Mattison
    Rooi Els
    July 2, 2012, 5:37 am

    I have a home near the location where you are doing your filming. I am outraged that a supposedly intelligent, informed group of people are endangering the lives of this baboon troop. When you leave they still need to survive. Every time you feed a baboon and make it feel he can trust humans you create a potentially dangerous situation – for the humans that need to co-exist with them and the baboons who need to remember how to forage in the wild for their food. Shame on you!! These wonderful animals need our protection and respect – they do not live in a circus.

  6. Sandra Yeo
    North Devon, United Kingdom
    July 2, 2012, 3:10 pm

    I too have a home near the location of your film. I have lived there, for part of the year, for nearly ten years now. During that time, my partner and I have learned to live among the baboons: you will notice the use of the word AMONG not WITH. This attitude is called mutual respect, something your crazed anthropomorphic cameramen have undermined with this nonsense film! I hope the person whose house you used is now hanging their his or her head in shame.

  7. George Kustner
    Cape Point
    July 3, 2012, 1:15 am

    I am astonished that National Geographic would produce a program like this. I have been reading your magazine since I was a child and your message has been one of promoting the preservation of nature and humans coexistence with animals. How is it possible that you can produce a program that undermines the community in which it was filmed by training the baboons to find food in their homes? The reality of the situation is that once these baboons get too familiar with people they get aggressive and very destructive. They become a danger to the community. I live in an area on the Cape Peninsular that also has a resident troop of baboons. It is a constant challenge to live in harmony with these animals and maintain a line of mutual respect so that they do not destroy our homes.
    The program that you have produced is irresponsible journalism and should be removed from your website and an apology should be given to the Pringle Bay community. The footage will be viewed by many around the world and I am sure some will come into contact with Baboons on their travels. Tourists feeding baboons is a big problem in Cape Town and in many other parts of the world. This program humanizes them and makes it very tempting for the uninformed tourist to give “cheeky” an orange as he likes them. It is not so great when “cheeky” rips the orange out of your toddlers hand though!
    Please see the error in your ways and do the right thing.

  8. Geoff Harris
    July 3, 2012, 1:37 am

    In America, parks have warnings not to feed the wild animals: ” A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR”. This because fed animals often change their feeding habits and subsequently pose a threat to humans. For NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC to encourage this sort of behavour in pursuit of pseudo research(and ratings) is irresponsible to say the least! The comments/descriptions of the ‘characters’ leads to the conclusion that NAT GEO is no better than those ignorant visitors who feed the baboons on the road so they can take cute pics and then leave the local residents with the resultant problem. (Or those in the community who deliberately feed the baboons in the various villages.) Law Enforcement must surely be called in to investigate and take action.
    It is perhaps coincidental that the U of San Antonio Dept of Anthropolgy is currently conducting baboon research in Rooiels – but on a far more scientific and acceptable basis.

  9. Pam Miller
    South Africa
    July 3, 2012, 2:44 am

    I am appalled at what National Geographic is doing to this small town. Equally important what rehab plans do they have for the baboons?
    It is fine for urban people to laugh at such a program but it is very scary to live in proximity to baboons.

  10. Cornelia Stoop
    Pringle Bay
    July 3, 2012, 2:44 am

    It is a pity that you didn’t have the foresight on the implications of luring baboons into a house. The residents of the surrounding areas have experienced a sharp increase in baboons breaking into houses. You stand responsible for teaching baboons unacceptable behavior and also indirectly for the death and injury of baboons. You should be fined for damages.

  11. Matthew Pea
    Pringle Bay, Western Cape, South Africa
    July 3, 2012, 5:57 am

    I too have a house in Pringle Bay and I have frequent interaction with baboons who sneak in at a moment’s notice and steal food, threaten my family and undermine the peace and tranquility that Pringle Bay offers. Sadly their behaviour is as a result of the ignorance and arrogance of businesses/people like National Geographic who look only at short term, to the detriment of years of contra-work by locals. In addition behaving irresponsibility and selfishly, FEEDING BABOONS IN SOUTH AFRICA IS ILLEGAL! I will be doing my upmost, to make sure people like you are not welcome to Pringle Bay ever again.

  12. Jenni Trethowan
    Cape Town
    July 3, 2012, 5:59 am

    The Nat.Geo film is an utterly appalling example of lack of understanding and how greed and ratings have more meaning that actual education. Your stupid, deplorable efforts have done more damage for baboons and undermined years of hard work on behalf of genuine organisations striving to offer real education and understanding. If National Geographic have any values or any ethics at all they would immediately can the piece and offer sound compensation to the residents of the area and to putting right the damage they have caused.

  13. Peter
    Cape Town
    July 3, 2012, 8:08 am

    Nat Geo Wild,

    The TV show Big Baboon House is an absolute disgrace! Luring baboons in a “Big Brother” style house that is baited with food and then filming them for the amusement of a lowbrow audience is a disgusting act. The so called “filmmakers” who put this tacky show together have no idea of the damage they have caused. Baboon house raids are a huge problem in the Pringle Bay and Hangklip area. Coaxing baboons into a baited house where it is “open season” for raiding modifies their behaviour, and exacerbates the raiding problem prevalent in the area, as these baboons become more brazen in their actions. Baboons that raid habitually acquire a death warrant – The Authorities’ myopic solution to the problem is to shoot and euthanize the baboons they identify as “repeat offenders”.

    Your description of the show on your website states:

    “A small town in South Africa is overrun by a troop of rambunctious baboons, so Nat Geo WILD has undertaken a simian social experiment of a lifetime to understand their behaviour. We’ve built a house designed to study the baboons so we can learn how to keep them out of homes and coexist peacefully with their human counterparts… all while having a little fun along the way as we observe these baboons having free reign over a posh house”

    What absolute rubbish! You’re trying to justify this despicable piece of work in the name of scientific research. It’s clear that this is not the purpose of the show – the only aim is to give viewers a cheap voyeuristic thrill at seeing baboons trashing a house and fighting with each other. The competition for food causes bloody fights between the adult males; something you have no problem showing your viewers. This is cruel beyond measure. These fights can result in serious injuries, like the loss of an eye or gashes to the throat.

    The inserts in the episodes where the filmmakers consult the bogus, fictitious “Baboon Britannica” to try to explain the resulting behaviour in this staged environment are just as absurd as the description of the show on your website. It’s a hollow attempt to lend some scientific weight to this contrived piece. It’s an attempt to brick to together these crass sketches using pseudo-science as the mortar, to justify the show’s existence.

    The way the show distorts reality is ludicrous – it violates the ethics of natural history filmmaking completely, by virtue of all the human intervention and manipulation that takes place. It is exploitative in the extreme, and a crime against nature. These filmmakers have no right to conduct such an “experiment”.

    This show is a slap in the face of the baboon savvy Hangklip and Pringle Bay residents who go to great lengths to protect their local baboon troops. The first sign you see as you drive into Pringle Bay is a billboard imploring visitors not to feed the baboons. There are road signs everywhere warning people to drive carefully because of the baboon presence on the roads. Garbage bins in the area are “baboon proofed” with intricate locking mechanisms to discourage scavenging. Most residents have modified their windows and doors with bars to prevent baboon entry into their houses.

    The National Geographic brand has a proud history, and is regarded with high esteem. With this in mind, I can barely comprehend your willingness to commission such a disgraceful production. Please do the right thing; pull the plug on this vulgar, moronic show!

  14. Judith
    July 3, 2012, 9:47 am

    I find it very surprising that this project was taken on by a organisation with the reputation and experience of National Geopgraphic.

    Everywhere in South Africa where baboons are a problem – Cape Town, the Kruger National Park, Natures’ Valley, Sabie, etc – it is hammered into resident and tourist heads that feeding baboons is a BIG NO-NO. At sites where the baboons beg regularly there are signs up: “don’t feed the baboons”. It is well known that baboons tamed by feeding have to be shot because they become so dangerous. And this project invites them into a house!

    I can not imagine that NG can’t be aware of this problem. The idea that you don’t feed potentially dangerous wild animals where they are in close contact with humans is a rather basic principle in nature conservation, I would have thought.

    There are South African organisations that work with these semi-wild baboons. Did NG check this project out with them? Did they coordinate with local resident groups?

    I do think NG should at least explain why they have taken on a project that, on the face of it, seems so blatantly irresponsible towards baboons and humans alike. Perhaps there are factors we are not aware of.

  15. Robert Baigrie
    Rooi Els Village
    July 3, 2012, 2:52 pm

    I and my family have been members of an adjacent village for over 30 years. Since it emerged 20 years ago, we have addressed the baboon issue and generally dealt with it constructively. This has required a lot of hard work and commitment from many residents and advisors. What we really don’t need is a puerile reality show, “Big Baboon House”, disingenuously justified as primate pseudoscience. Lefty, Rikki, Cheeky and Rambo… good grief – you cant really be serious. The comment of Darryl (Aka Scar) above, is presumably what Ms Gleason is hoping for, and demonstrates how far programmers will go in their quest to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    This country has a fine tradition of wildlife management in the face of huge obstacles, something appreciated by international organisations serious about the subject. National Geographic can no longer claim to be an organisation serious about the subject, and has betrayed its solid track record of supporting conservation issues in favour of cheap and nasty entertainment. They have stooped to the lowest form of entertainment here, and in doing so, have shown complete disrespect not only to our community, but also to this country and its wildlife programs. Their work will achieve nothing and destroy far more than they realise. Ms Gleason and her seniors should be embarrassed and ashamed.

    I have subscribed to the magazine for decades, but that will end now. With this program, Nat Geo has simply become the equivalent of those vulgar ESPN-TV canned hunting programs.

    This sort of misleading program reminds me of Sir Walter Scott’s verse:
    “What a tangled web we weave
    When first we practise to deceive.
    But when we’ve practised quite a while
    How vastly we improve our style”

    You and your colleagues have clearly been practising, Meghan Gleason.

  16. Fran Meyer
    South Africa
    July 4, 2012, 6:00 am

    Firstly shame on you and everyone connected with this piece.
    You cannot imagine the damage you have done with your meddling in the lives of these baboons. Your motto of “Inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888” is laughable in the light of this series. Alexander Graham Bell would be ashamed of you. Is this what National Geographic is reduced to now?
    Your greed for ratings, money, commercialism and the “wow factor” (proven by assimilating the piece with Big Brother) has damaged these baboons for the rest of their lives. You have done more damage for the baboon human conflict in that community than any single other incident that I can think of.

    To say that thanks to this piece the viewers will “learn how to keep them out of homes and coexist peacefully with their human counterparts” is just trying to add some window-dressing education to something which contains nothing but sensationalism of the worst kind. Where is the justification? We know how to keep baboons out of our homes; we know how to coexist peacefully. There are ongoing education and awareness campaigns done by reputable and respected experts in the field. It’s very sad that this film has effectively excluded Nat Geo Wild from that particular field of experts.

    My next protest will be to the local authorities in the Western Cape who actually gave you the permission to do this. It would be interesting to know how much you paid. Morally you should double that money now and spend it on rehabilitating these animals that you have so badly damaged.”
    Fran Meyer

  17. Lisel Krige
    July 4, 2012, 7:43 am

    As the councillor in the ward of the Overstrand municipality where the atrocious ‘baboon house’ practices occurred, I wish to condemn and denounce the so-called research project in the strongest possible terms.

    I am deeply shocked that National Geographic was in any way involved. Does it not have a reputation of many years as a NATURE oriented organisation to live up to? I am equally apalled at the apparent involvement of UCT’s baboon experts: scientists of note, from a renowned academic institution!

    Does anyone still wonder why Pringle Bay has a bunch of hooligan baboons that act like human criminals?

    Lisel Krige, Ward Councillor, Overstrand.

  18. Deon Hattingh
    Rooiels Western Cape.
    July 5, 2012, 4:14 am

    I Believe that the earlier comments posted on this blog clearly indicates the ourage,disgust and disapointment we all experience with the unscientific and abhoring “project ” that National Geographic has had the audacity to contaminate our shores with !

    I will personally contact one of the largest and most popular radio talk shows on the african continent in order to give NG the adverse publicity that they so richly deserve in this instance. You owe an apology to all South Africans for your irresponsible and outrageous behaviour. At the same time I am requesting members of our comunity to report this matter to Cape Nature and other conservation authorities including law enforcement as a matter of urgency.

  19. Dante Justus Robbertze
    Scarborough, Western Cape, South Africa
    July 5, 2012, 9:48 am

    Nat Geo – This is crazy, irresponsible and loaded with lack of respect! Living with these animals is not a joke – it is a real life experience that many of us face day in and day out! You have failed the animal kingdom & humanity. Shame on you!

  20. taryn hosford
    July 6, 2012, 3:08 am

    I cannot believe what i have just seen. this is ludicrous. As a resident of scarborough, natorious for having problems with baboons, i can honestly say that this is the worst form of human error and stupidity i have ever come across. you are teaching them how to break into our houses and distroy everything inside. these baboons are not the bloody kardashians of reality tv, they are wild animals and are meant to be terrified of us, and yet those responsible for this pathetic display are creating even more damage to a problem we already have. like someone said earlier, we spend years and lots of money trying to stop them from getting into our houses and you are taking away our right to safety. i challenge the nat geo team who did this to come into scarborough without cameras and experience the terror my son goes through every time these babs try and get through our windows and sliding doors. i find this whole thing so disturbing.

  21. Lee Jones
    Scarborough, Cape Town, South Africa
    July 9, 2012, 12:35 pm

    National Geographic – you should be utterly ashamed of yourselves for this! Your total lack of responsibility in adequately researching the impacts of this type of scenario is in fact criminal. It is ILLEGAL to knowingly feed baboons. This is NOT cute – and may well lead to the need for some or all of these baboons being euthanized. May we then film their demise and broadcast the proceedings under the title:
    “National Geographic responsible for baboon troop slayings” OR “National Geographic’s baboon slaughterhouse”? Get your act together Nat Geo – this is NO laughing matter. It is sick, irresponsible, illegal and utterly contrary to my understanding of Nat Geo’s ethic. It has made me question the validity of many stories I have read in Nat Geo since my youth – and will most certainly remove Nat Geo as a source of verified information from my house. Unbelievably disappointed!
    How does this programme fit into the National Geographic Society’s policy?

  22. Sarah
    South Africa
    July 16, 2012, 3:09 pm

    Having known someone that worked on this project and following their stories over the months of experiments and scientific experiments at that, as well as the whole process and how everything was very carefully thought out to not endanger the animals and not do anything illegal to now seeing how the American’s have taken all the footage and transformed it into something completely and utterly different.

    The person I know who worked on it is utterly ashamed as this show is not what they went there to make and not what they set out to accomplish and achieve.

    It is only Nat Geo that is at fault here, not the film makers as I can assure you that a very different scientific experiment was conducted with a positive outcome and baboon proofing solutions – not a farce of baboons defecating and speaking in American accents.

    It is not only the residents that are appalled – think of the poor film makers that spent months of their lives living this project only to have been lied to themselves and everything thrown back in their faces after thinking they were actually doing something positive for the community with good results.

    What a sad turn of events National Geographic – You should be ashamed! Release the original footage the way it should be and try to reclaim your sense of pride and dignity and give the residents some truth.
    It is so sad to read all of the comments from people and know that what they are watching is all a lie!
    A mix and match edit of the total footage to create whatever the hell you felt like, and pretend it is a ‘Reality’ show instead of actually using the footage as it was intended and how it happened to broadcast REAL LIFE. What reality really is.

  23. […] is some show on the Nat Geo: Wild channel and the title kind of says it all. This is one of the better weirder […]

  24. Andy
    September 18, 2012, 7:08 pm

    The best reality series i have ever seen. Brilliant!

  25. Andy
    September 18, 2012, 7:09 pm

    When can i get th DVD?

  26. Michael Cunningham
    Harrismith South Africa
    January 14, 2013, 6:20 am

    Over six months later and there has been no feedback from Nat Geog on this travesty (either on our blog comments or in response to emails to the society and to the magazine). WHERE IS THE RESPONSE. I notice also that despite the furore in South Africa there was little more than facile commentary in the American media, which seemed unaware of the controversy.

    The statements that this was some kind of worthwhile experiment are no more than a subterfuge. There is no more science in this than in Big Brother – no clear questions, hypotheses or expectations; no replication (across troops or houses); no ethical clearance for an experiment; no peer reviewed articles; and preposterous methods that show little insight into baboon behaviour.

  27. Vanessa Monteiro
    Brazil - Belo Horizonte - MG
    January 16, 2013, 8:17 pm

    I just Loved!!! The best reality show ever!!

  28. Annet
    January 27, 2013, 4:46 pm

    I want to know who to contact at NG for compensation for broken sliding doors and windows!!!
    We URGENTLY require those fools to come do service in keeping the baboons away from our houses!

  29. Ken Forrester
    Stellenbosch South Africa
    June 16, 2013, 10:09 am

    1) it’s time that the residents of Pringles Bay brought a class action legal case against Nat Geographic.
    2) know that these now “trained” rogue baboons will all be shot, hopefully after a trip to the taxidermist Nat Geographic can make some money out of displaying them in the foyer of their offices internationally.

    This is a travesty an utter disgrace!