Baboons gaze at each other during courtship too. These animals may have branched off of our human evolutionary tree more than 19 million years ago, yet this similarity in wooing persists. As anthropologist Barbara Smuts had said of a budding baboon courtship on the Eburru cliffs in Naivasha, Kenya while on a kenya safari, “It looked like watching two novices in a singles bar.”
The affair began one evening when a female baboon, Thalia, turned and caught a young male, Alex staring at her. They were about 15 feet apart. He glanced away immediately. So she stared at him—until he turned to look at her. Then she intently fiddled with her toes. On it went. Each time she stared at him, he looked away; each time he stared at her, she groomed her feet. Finally Alex caught Thalia gazing at him—the “return gaze.”
Immediately he flattened his ears against his head, narrowed his eyelids, and began to smack his lips, the height of friendliness in baboon society. Thalia froze. Then, for a long moment, she looked him in the eye. Only after this extended eye contact had occurred did Alex approach her, at which point Thalia began to groom him—the beginning of aand sexual liaison that was still going strong six years later, when Smuts returned to Kenya to study baboon friendships.
Safari Pride Adventures