This image reached the Final Round of judging for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 56 collection
Portrait of a female chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) keeping a vigilant eye on the photographer. Captured at the Twyfelfontein site of the southern Kunene region in north-western Namibia, formerly known as Damaraland. The word “chacma” is derived from the Bushman language (“choa kamma”). It is a transcription of a sound association that refers to the sharp bark of the baboon when on alert (indicated in the click languages of the Bushman as a “chac chac”). There are reports by early explorers of the Karoo region in South Africa of pet Chacma baboons being used as watch dogs and even shepherds (Eugène Marais, My friends the baboons, Gothic Printing, Capetown, South Africa, 1971). Troops of chacma baboons roam freely over the scattered rock engravings that make up the Twyfelfontein site. They are often seen gathered close to the rock engravings, observing, grooming or foraging. While the photographer was coming closer and closer to admire one of the rock engravings, he was mesmerized by the intense gaze of this female chacma baboon which acted as if guarding the site from any trespassers. The stare was intense but did not have any hint of aggressiveness. The stance of this chacma baboon was reminiscent of the guardian of a temple. Chacma baboons of Twyfelfontein behave as if they are the guardians of the rock engravings depicting the rituals that bonded the hunters-gatherers and the animal kingdom, a reminiscence of nature interconnectedness that prevailed with the “primitive” tribes.