By Leigh KempThere are many traits in baboon behaviour that are very similar to ours; it is in these similarities that we find amusement (or is it maybe embarrassment?) as they make us reflect on our own nature as a species.
One very cold winter's morning in the Okavango Delta, I observed the flirty behaviour of a particular female in a troop. The female began her frisky morning by flirting with the troop's dominant male who was seated and minding his own business while he watched over the floodplain. When the alpha male showed no interest in her she moved on to other males.
The female systematically went from male to male sticking her not-yet-fully-swollen back side in their faces; the males,in turn, showed no interest in her.
After unsuccessfully garnering any interest from various males, the female resumed flirting with the dominant male. Again he showed little interest. The female backed a little closer, finally receiving some attention, as the male casually stuck out his arm and inserted his finger into her swelling nether regions.
She squealed in shock and turned to stare at him before she ran off. The male baboon simply resumed his pondering. She backed a little closer until he casually stuck out his arm and inserted his finger in her swelling nether regions.
Males are stimulated by the sight of a female with a swollen backside and will attempt to mount the female if higher ranking males are not in the vicinity. At the height of the females' cycle the dominant male will keep all others away from her. This may seem a very casual sexual behaviour but it is orchestrated to allow the strongest genes to survive.
Sexual self-gratification is not something that is associated with animals (except for humans) but I have observed it a number of times, the majority of times in baboons.