Monkey see, monkey do: Panicked baboons in Dutch zoo

A bird, a predator, a UFO? What is monkeying up the monkeys?

BBC News – Spooked baboons baffle Dutch zoo in Emmen.

Staff at a zoo in the Netherlands say they are baffled by their baboons, who have spent days sitting still, huddled together in fear and hardly eating.

The behaviour started on Monday evening, and only now are the 112 baboons becoming their normal, active selves again, said a biologist at Emmen Zoo.

The zoo still has no idea what spooked the hamadryas baboons, but it is a good sign that some are now eating apples, biologist Wijbren Landman said.

Mr Landman said he had consulted a French baboon expert who had witnessed such baboon hysteria in the wild, triggered by awareness of a predator. But the French expert said such hysteria had not lasted as long as in the Emmen case.

He said some males in the hierarchy must have got frightened for some reason, and the rest of the baboons followed their lead.

This sounds so much like human crowd behavior, doesn’t it? Oh, my, I saw something scary, let’s all panic. Actually, it’s fascinating. There have been lots of suggestions of what the supposed threat might be. If this were an earthquake prone area, people would expect a tremor shortly after strange behavior. In this case, the strangest suggestion was that they were afraid of a UFO that was reported. That is actually how I found this story but I can’t find the UFO report. I think that’s a stretch anyway. No one else seems freaked out about that.

But I am excited to post this under the category “mass hysteria” even though it’s not people!

  6 comments for “Monkey see, monkey do: Panicked baboons in Dutch zoo

  1. bbb101
    August 5, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    I suspect DJ Bigfoot (a DJ from The Netherlands) probably visited the zoo and scared the poor baboons.

  2. Nos482
    August 5, 2013 at 1:27 AM

    It may not be about people, but 112 baboons definetly count as a mass.

  3. August 5, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    This is a fascinating story. All the species of Baboons are not far behind the Apes in terms of intelligence. An expert’s diagnosis would be interesting.

  4. Brian
    August 5, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Too bad no one can find out if their keeper was fired recently, and why.

  5. Sarah Tygert
    August 5, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    Went poking around on their Facebook page… I don’t understand Dutch, so had to try to decipher what was going on from pictures and those horrible Bing Translations that FB offers.

    It seems there was a rather large family type event on the 28th of that month, of which they have a picture of the baboons behaving normally. They then report the first instance of strange behavior on the 31st, stating that this behavior started the “night prior” to the 30th, which would’ve been immediately after this “monster hunting event” which flooded the zoo with children. I wonder if there could be made a correlation between the two?

    I’m also obnoxiously curious as to what the primary source, the zoo, has commented concerning these events with the baboons… but their website, again, is in Dutch.

  6. Nim
    August 6, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    I am Dutch, and I can add some more news. The Zoo doesn’t know what caused the hysteria, but it has happened before, in 1994, 1997 and 2007. It lasts from 4 days up to a week and then all becomes normal again.

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