Baboons sniff out a better orange
A baboon is seen near a road outside Cape Town, South Africa, last year.
January 13th, 2011
01:51 PM ET

Baboons sniff out a better orange

Want to find the sweetest citrus in the orchard? Ask a baboon.

A group of baboons in South Africa is being credited with sniffing out a new, sweeter variety of orange.

Alwyn van der Merwe, production director of ALG Estates near Citrusdal, South Africa, said the farm noticed that baboons that come down to the farm from nearby mountains each year always went to feed from a particular tree among the thousands in the orchards. The animals stripped the tree clean of fruit well before others in the orchard were in season, he said.

"At closer inspection we discovered that the brix [sweetness grade] of this particular minneola, a soft citrus variety, was much higher than the rest of the orchard and that it started bearing fruit at least three weeks earlier than expected," van der Merwe said, according to a report in the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

" It was clearly a case of a spontaneous mutation in the orchard, which would have gone unnoticed were it not for the baboons,” van der Merwe is quoted as saying.

Growers have begun grafting shoots from the baboon’s favorite tree onto other root stock and hope to be producing large quantities of the sweeter minneola in a few years.

And he knows the baboons will likely be the first customers.

"I'm sure they will have a feast one day when we produce a whole orchard of these early sweet minneolas," he said.

Post by:
Filed under: Animals • South Africa
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. Cajun Dude

    I like humor as much as the next, but this article, and the comments that followed, is eye opening. It was an article about spontaneous mutation, and how another species discovered it first. A farmer, instead of running them off, learned something from them that would increase his profits in the long run. The troup of baboons won't eat much before the whole crop is harvested, so he learned something.
    Now, literally everyone of the comments were nothing but a pile of baboon jokes, babboon butt jokes, racist jokes, trailer park jokes, etc. Nothing came close to anything serious or intellectual about a new finding.
    Do all of you find fart jokes are the funniest thing?

    January 14, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • CC Croft

      Cajun Dude... I pretty much love you. Thank you for your intelligence. You made my morning. And this is a rough morning so extra kudos to you.

      January 14, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      Cajun… A most excellent post, but one must keep in mind that the average IQ is only 100 points, these people are not capable of much thinking but can be funny in their own way.
      Really, it is pretty impressive that a modern farmer actually paid attention and learned something from the baboons, maybe there is hope for the white man afterall.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Musomesa

      Cajun - always remember that half of us are of above average stupidity. Sadly some of the shallow posters are actually adults.

      January 16, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. CC Croft

    I really like that fact that the person involved in this clearly works with and around the baboons rather than trying to drive them out. Now because of them, he has the potential to make much more money. That is so fantastic and hopefully encouraging to others to learn to work with their surroundings instead of against them. 🙂

    January 14, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. Simion

    outstanding yes kudos to you...

    January 14, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Simion

    and x-tra kudos to you.even though you are having a rough morning and probobly forgot your java,you still managed to blog,You truly are an example

    January 14, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Marsain

    I like orange turtles.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. simion

    thank you.And.thanks for adding a couple of points to my IQ....

    January 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    I saw some baboons in SA and they were hilarious and very intelligent. They hoped over barbed and electrified fences by only touching them in just the right places. Of course I had put my camera away when a few dozen of them went over the fence. It looked like a funny jail-break. I guess that's why these farmers just let them have some oranges.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. kudo

    Wonder if Obama picks his oranges himself?

    January 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Colin in Florida

    Where are the "intelligent design" people when real evolution shows up?

    January 14, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. The_Mick

    America's fruit is picked before it's really ripe in order to keep it firmer and bruise-free in the stores. And it doesn't taste as sweet. Go into a corner store, supermarket, or stand in Paris, Tel Aviv, Cairo, etc. and you'll get fruit that's got a few brown spots on it but tastes incredibly sweet because its picked ripe.

    January 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Torontonian

    Baboons......been around for centuries, and the one in the picture looks like Prime Minister Stephan Harper when he wakes up in the morning, and the look in the eyes shows a remarkable resemblance too. At least Obama knows how to give a speech. If the Americians think their congress is full of Baboons, they should see what we have in Parliament Hill in Ottawa.....One Flew Over Ottawa.....their all insane!! Spend, spend, spend and the hell with what the taxpayers want. I'd like to know how Obama and company plan on tackling the massive debt of 1.3 Trillion Dollars! As taxpayers, we should be hiring a collection agency to get our money back and find SOMEONE who knows what fiscal and financial restraint means and quit blowing our hard earned tax dollars. Ya I know, dreamer!!

    January 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Clint

    Doesn't look like the Baboon from Every Which Was But Loose.

    January 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • roy

      Because it was not a baboon in the movie.

      January 15, 2011 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sunshine

    neoritter – Here's the thing though, most food produce in the US is domestic...

    Ahhhh... most... is domestic. Sorry. You flunk. Any and ALL food produced in the US is domestic! I think I have to go to bed and sleep on that one. gads.....

    January 14, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dianne

    Hey look, evolution!! 🙂

    January 15, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  15. jacko

    I could do with one of those baboons! Next to my big black Lab... Now there is where I will find some lovely oranges!!!

    January 16, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3