The King Baboon is arguably one of the most impressive of all the tarantulas. It is considered to be the largest tarantula found in Africa. While some articles claim that big adult females attain legspans of up to 8” across in truth my biggest specimens are closer to 7″ and are many years old.
Alongside the overall dimensions of this spider, however, it is also very bulky – the tarantula equivalent of a bull terrier. Pelinobius muticus as it is known to scientists has thick, impressive back legs, where the final segment of the leg is turned in giving it a slightly “pigeon-toed” appearance. It is also clothed all over in velvety orange hair that gives it a quite unique appearance.
King Baboons are not common in the hobby, and as a result can be reasonably expensive spiders to purchase. That said, there is no denying their impressive appearance.
Coupled with their ability to stridulate (“hiss”) when disturbed and their reasonably aggressive attitudes they are perhaps therefore better suited to more experienced tarantula keepers than beginners.
But, for keepers with a little knowledge under their belt with some of the more docile and modestly-sized tarantulas, there really is nothing quite like keeping this amazing species. I don’t feel I’m exaggerating when I say that this is a tarantula that every serious enthusiast should have in their collection.
If you’re considering adding this species to your collection then read on for my detailed King Baboon care sheet…
King Baboon Wild Habitat
The King Baboon was originally described in 1900 by Pocock. Over the years the Latin name used has changed. When I first started out keeping tarantulas this amazing species was known as Citharischius crawshayi.
Since then, however, its name has changed to Pelinobius muticus, thanks to British arachnologist Richard Gallon, who officially changed the name of this species in 2010. It is interesting to note that at the time of writing, the King Baboon is the only spider found in this genus as it is considered so different to other baboon spiders.
The original specimen came from Kenya but it also also known that this species can be found across other countries in eastern Africa, including Tanzania and Uganda.
This is an interesting consideration as many other moderately common tarantulas such as the “orange bitey thing” also hail from Tanzania and surrounding regions. In this way, both species have adapted to quite a similar habitat.
In the wild, Pelinobius muticus is most commonly found in dry acacia scrubland areas, where it digs extensive burrows. Even in captivity, given suitable space, King Baboons may dig incredibly deep burrows. Whilst this behaviour is fascinating, and helps your spider to feel comfortable in captivity, this does mean that the King Baboon can be one of the species known as a “pet hole”.
The reason is simple; once ensconced in their burrow you may go weeks or even months between sightings; make sure you’re happy with this arrangement before you consider investing the not inconsiderable sum into bringing one of these incredible tarantulas home.
Housing King Baboons
King Baboon tarantulas are one of the larger species available in the hobby, and require a suitably-sized cage. I keep my big adult female in a cage measuring some 30cm x 30cm to allow her space to move around and behave naturally. King Baboons are also quite active burrowers so the tank should be tall enough to allow a decent depth of substrate to be added.
Coming from Africa these tarantulas prefer a drier habitat than many other species, so suitable ventilation is crucial. This should be in the form of mesh somewhere towards the top of the cage so that excess moisture can easily evaporate out.
As these are such large and impressive tarantulas you’ll also want to make sure that the cage is very secure indeed. Their strength means that they can push off lids that might keep smaller tarantulas safely contained.
These days there are more tarantula cages available than ever before. Some keepers opt to build their own using glass or perspex, or to repurpose household objects like tupperware boxes sold for storing cakes etc. Personally I have done well keeping this species in Really Useful Boxes with ventilation holes drilled in the sides.
These days, however, my personal preference is for Kritter Keepers and the like for these burrowing tarantulas.
- Rectangular Kritter Keepers have self-locking lids with hinged viewer/ feeder windows
- Capacity: 5.90 GAlarge. Size: 15 3/4-inch large by 9 3/8-inch width by 12 1/2-inch height
- Kritter Keepers have well-ventilated lids in assorted colors
Heating & Temperature
Aim for a temperature of around 24-27’C in the warmest area of the cage, with the cooler end being a few degrees cooler. It can be handy to use a digital thermostat, at least in the early days of setting up your Pelinobius muticus cage, so that you can monitor temperatures.
The best of these have a stand-alone digital read-out, attached to one or more temperature sensors on wires. Another benefit of Exo Terras is that they have sealable holes through which the wires of your thermometer can pass, allowing you to monitor the internal temperature of the cage without causing any disturbance.
Water & Humidity
Coming from dry areas of Africa the King Baboon does not seem to appreciate an overly moist environment. Instead I like to keep my specimens moderately dry.
At the same time, fresh water should always be available to your spider. For mid-sized specimens an upended bottle lid can work well, while for adults I use water bowls designed for small rodents like hamsters.
These are regularly cleaned and refilled, though appreciate that as a strong burrower there is a chance that your Pelinobius muticus may regularly bury their water bowl – a rather frustrating experience!
Cage Furnishings for Pelinobius muticus
Once you’ve obtained a suitable tank for your King Baboon there are a few pieces of equipment that you’ll want to add to their cage.
Firstly, you’ll need a suitable substrate for them to burrow into. There are a whole range of different substrates suitable for tarantulas but I tend to almost exclusively now use coconut (coir) fibre.
- ECO-FRIENDLY ORGANIC and 100% BIODEGRADABLE unlike some reptile substrates that are contributing to deforestation and then go to the landfill
- INCREASES HUMIDITY for animals that need moderate to high humidity
- ABSORBENT composition allows it to soak up messes and odors, leaving a cleaner habitat for your pet
This is reasonably priced, is easy to for your tarantula to burrow into and comes in handy compressed “bricks”. Simply soak the brick in water for 30 minutes so that it expands, tip out any excess water and let the remaining substrate dry out gently. As most of the moisture is eliminated it should now be ready for use.
Quite how much depth of substrate you add depends on the cage you’ve chosen. As discussed, King Baboons are strong burrowers, so the more substrate you can give them the better. I would consider a 6” depth to be the minimum for an adult specimen, but if you’re able to give them more then all the better.
King Baboons can be quite fast moving and aggressive, so another useful piece of equipment can be a long pair of forceps. I actually have two different pairs in my “animal room” – a straight pair and one pair with curved ends. Both are around 30cm long, and allow me to remove uneaten food or sloughed skins without sticking my hands into harm’s way. They can also be handy for digging around looking for the water bowl!
As mentioned, you’ll also be needing a suitable water bowl, thermometer and potentially a thermostat. However one final point worth mentioning here is that you should provide your King Baboon with at least one place to hide away out of sight.
As King Baboons like to burrow they may dislodge anything you place into their cage, so it is important to ensure that their hide is lightweight and won’t crush them if they burrow beneath. Possibly the best option is a suitably-sized curved piece of cork bark.
Feeding King Baboon Tarantulas
I have found that my King Baboons have a healthy appetite and will eat almost anything that they can subdue. Unlike some other species my Pelinobius muticus never seem to go off their food – apart from just before a moult.
My go-to food for adult tarantulas like King Baboons is fully grown locusts. Other big feeder insects will work just as well, however, including larger roaches or field crickets. I have even tried giving my King Baboons gently warmed rodent carcasses (fluffs and hopper mice) just as I do to my pet snakes and have found they will often accept such a foodstuff as a treat.
Aim to feed younger King Baboons once or twice a week, while adults will remain healthy on a once-a-week feeding regime.
Try to keep records of when your tarantula feeds. Any uneaten food should be removed as it may indicate that your tarantula is coming up to moult. Here they may stop eating for some weeks – perhaps even a month or longer in really big females. Under such circumstances withhold all food for a few weeks after the successful moulting, at which point your tarantula should begin feeding ravenously once again.
Handling Pelinobius muticus
King Baboons are large tarantulas. They’re also reasonably fast-moving and aggressive. As a result they’re unsuitable for handling without risking damage to either yourself or the spider.
Instead, if you need to move your tarantula (such as for cleaning) you are better to either place a plastic pot over them or to gently coax them into moving with your forceps. For safety, consider doing this in your bathtub so that if things go wrong and your tarantula makes a dash for freedom you won’t spend the next week moving pieces of furniture in a futile hunt for a large and angry spider.
Photo c/o snakecollector