A Humbling Encounter With The King Of Spiders

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A giant Baboon Spider in Euwaso Ngiro, Narok. Photo courtesy of Henry Muuthia.

The first reaction you tend to have when you come across a Baboon Spider, also known as the tarantula, outside Africa, is one of utter fear. So when I came across several in the Euwaso Ngiro area of Narok recently in a span of a few days, they unnerved me. The large, hairy nature of this giant arachnid can send chills down your spine any time. The spider acquires its name from the last two segments of its legs that resemble the finger of a baboon.

Baboon spiders can grow up to 90 mm in body size. Interestingly a baboon spider can regenerate body parts through moulting. If a leg is lost between moults, the spider is capable of regenerating a new one, which appears after the next moult. These spiders take up to 10 years to mature and can live for 25 years.

Despite its rather scary look the Baboon spider cannot cause fatality in humans when it attacks. It is however known to pack enough venom in its enormous fangs to inflict a painful bite. Bites in humans result in a burning pain at the bite site. The victim, after about two hours, start to vomit; they show marked signs of shock, become pale and have difficulty walking.

So even though you may not die of a tarantula, you will go through a nightmare and a half of excruciating pain and great discomfort. When alarmed, baboon spiders will throw their front legs backwards and open their chelicerae (the pair of fang-like appendages near their mouth used for grasping and piercing).

Some Baboon spiders are known to produce a hissing sound similar to snakes. Baboon spiders live in holes on the ground and these is where they also do the hunting as they lay in wait for prey passing over the holes. I guess because of the heavy downpour in Narok recently, most were now running away from their homes and trying to get into sheltered places, explaining why all the ones we saw were indoor.

These scary-looking creatures apparently have a cult following and their demand as pets have driven them to near extinction. They are classified by the IUCN as Commercially Threatened and measures are in place to restrict their collection and transportation. So I cannot quite figure out what impact our quite instinctive action to crash them to death on sight had on the global populations of the Baboon spider but it is rather difficult for most people to resist crashing them out of fear.

At least I did stick around long enough to take great shots of them before my colleagues decimated them to death. May be if we had known we were party to hastening the extinction of an animal species, we may have acted differently – we will now never know. If it were you, what would be your first reaction? Have you had an encounter with a tarantula? Leave your comments below.

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About Henry Muuthia

Henry Muuthia is a travel writer and photographer. He writes for a range of online platforms including Technorati, Google+, EzineArticles and ArticleBase where he has published several articles, mostly on Kenyan travel. He is a resident writer for Enchanted Landscapes Travelogue and also occasionally writes for the travel section of Nakumatt''s SmartLife Magazine.
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