Baboons make sweet discovery in South Africa

Jan 13, 2011 By DONNA BRYSON , Associated Press
In this photo taken March 19, 2010, a baboon looks on at Constantia Uitsig wine estate near Cape Town, South Africa. South African farmer Alwyn van der Merwe, is thanking voracious baboons for what could be a lucrative discovery: a sweeter tangerine he can get to market faster. The discovery of the natural mutation citrus tree was made when baboons would strip one tree in an orchard before others. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-File)

(AP) -- When it comes to grabbing fruit off trees, baboons don't monkey around. Now their speed at gobbling up quickly ripening fruit has led to a discovery of what is believed to be a new type of tangerine.

South African farmer Alwyn van der Merwe said workers noticed several years ago that one of his tangerine was already stripped of fruit when the other trees were ready for picking. The same thing happened the next year, and the next. A farmworker finally solved the mystery when he saw baboons picking the tree clean. This one tree was making ripe tangerines three to four weeks ahead of all the others.

Van der Merwe said tests showed the is sweeter and ripens faster. He produced more of the trees using grafts. His ALG Estates, a family citrus business north of Cape Town, will soon be exporting the tangerines, van der Merwe said.

"There is a big market in the U.S.," he noted. "Especially when you're earlier."

Getting to market before other suppliers means higher prices can be charged.

Justin Chadwick, head of South Africa's Citrus Growers Association, said experts are constantly trying to develop varieties in laboratories that ripen either earlier or later than normal.

Van der Merwe believes his tree naturally mutated, something that Chadwick said does occur and that should keep an eye out for. Van der Merwe may be bagging extra profits but recognizes he had help.

"The baboons were right," the farmer said.

Van der Merwe said he might give the credit when he names his new variety.

At the very least, he said, he'll leave them a crate of the tangerines next harvest.

Explore further: Bird beaks feeling the heat of climate change, say scientists

0 shares

Related Stories

New find suggests whales can love

Dec 11, 2006

Researchers in New York have found that various types of whales possess the same emotion-producing brain cells as humans.

Rocky water source

Jun 11, 2008

Gypsum, a rocky mineral is abundant in desert regions where fresh water is usually in very short supply but oil and gas fields are common. Writing in International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, Peter van der Ga ...

Miniature Gas Tank

Jan 28, 2005

Porous networks of organic Van der Waals crystals can selectively store methane and carbon dioxide Washing powders are generally known to consist partially of inorganic zeolites. These aluminosilicates form porous structure ...

Recommended for you

Do you have the time? Flies sure do

29 minutes ago

Flies might be smarter than you think. According to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 28, fruit flies know what time of day it is. What's more, the insects can learn to con ...

Barking characterizes dogs as voice characterizes people

3 hours ago

An international group of researchers has conducted a study on canine behavior showing that gender, age, context and individual recognition can be identified with a high percentage of success through statistical ...

Bird beaks feeling the heat of climate change, say scientists

4 hours ago

While the human population grapples with ways to counter the effects of climate change, Deakin University research has discovered that birds might have been working on their own solution for the past 145 years – grow bigger ...

How longhorned beetles find Mr. Right

17 hours ago

A longhorned beetle's sexy scent might make a female perk up her antennae. But when the males of several species all smell the same, a female cannot choose by cologne alone.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.