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Using Social Network Analysis to Evaluate One-Male-Unit Formation in a Captive Group of Hamadryas Baboons (Papio hamadryas) at Oakland Zoo
Hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas) live in a complex multilevel social system with the one-male-unit (OMU) at the core. OMUs consist of an adult alpha male with one or several adult females, their dependent offspring and sometimes a few follower males. Previous research has documented that OMUs form in four distinct ways in wild populations. In December 2015, Oakland Zoo introduced two juvenile males into the hamadryas baboon exhibit. At the time of this study, these males were approaching sexual maturity. The complex social structure of this species and the changing social dynamics that might result as they reach sexual maturity provide a unique opportunity to utilize social network analysis (SNA) methods to examine OMU formation in a captive setting with an eye towards potential management strategies. SNA is a visualization method of looking at social data that allows researchers to understand sociality in terms of the importance of each individual, any subgroups, as well as the larger overall group dynamic. Behavioral and proximity data were collected over a six-month period (July- Dec 2019). These data were then transformed into networks to analyze the two now subadult males’ behavior over time and the presence of any subgroups. I found that one of the subadult males formed his first OMU following one of the four pathways found in wild studies. Despite changing group dynamics, overall group cohesion remained unchanged. This study reveals hamadryas OMU formation patterns in captivity as well as suggests potential welfare management issues that might arise.