Rafiki is a hamadrayas baboon (Papio hamadryas) who is currently living in Lao Zoo. The story of Rafiki’s origins are unclear, but many staff agree that he has been living in the zoo for about 20 years, and was most likely one of the first animals brought into the zoo when it opened. His age, therefore, is estimated to be early twenties, but as the zoo never kept any official records, we cannot confirm this.
Rafiki currently has two enclosures connected by an iron tunnel, but it was not always this way. In June 2017, staff were able to build this connecting tunnel to double the size of his enclosure. There is evidence, however, that the enclosure he was in before was actually half the size that it is now, and that it had been enlarged only a few years ago. Because he has such a small living space, he has developed many harmful stereotypes such as rapid pacing, grunting, and screaming for no reason. Even after the new addition to his cage was welded on, he is quite wary of it and only goes in to get enrichment and food placed inside before running back out. He is extremely uncomfortable in his new space and does not trust the area. Staff have been trying to encourage him to use the extra space by putting food in that area, and slowly he has been observed inside more often. After seeing and hearing about this, the team at LWRC are hopeful that a larger, more natural environment will help decrease his stereotyping.
In the wild, baboons do not generally eat fruit like other monkeys—instead, they prefer to dine on grasses, insects, and roots. Unfortunately, in the Lao Zoo a proper diet was never enforced upon him, and due to being fed primarily fruit, Rafiki now has severe gingivitis and deep grooves in his canines. This has since been and continues to be attended to by our vet team.
Rafiki loves to play with his plastic orange ball. He carries it around like a comfort blanket and hugs it to his chest when he becomes too stressed out. He does not react well to large crowds, and becomes very agitated when zoo guests start shouting at him or waving cameras around him. Because he has no space he can hide in comfortably, his pacing becomes very frantic during these busy times and he becomes very introverted, unable to be distracted from stereotyping.
LWRC has many ideas about how to increase the quality of life for this poor baboon. Changing his diet and providing enrichment suited to his species would help prevent his teeth from becoming worse. Giving him a lot more space, and especially access to fresh grass and soil for him to dig and forage, could decrease his stereotyping and encourage natural behaviours. We aim to raise 6,000 USD to create the best captive environment we can for this big handsome guy.
You can donate to Rafiki now at https://www.weeboon.com/en/campaign/rafiki