war is hell

Toronto Zoo Staging Reenactment of Game of Thrones After Death of Betty the Baboon Queen

Olive Baboon Mothers and Infants
A baboon monarch and her group of political advisers, maybe. Photo: Kennan Ward/Corbis

Betty came to power the way many monarchs do — her mother, Queen Boss Lady, died, and she automatically became ruler of the Toronto Zoo’s baboon house. When 16-year-old Betty died last year, however, there was no obvious successor to take her place. Her daughter, Princess Molly, was only six. The rightful heir’s weakness left a power vacuum that led to months of horrifying battles that were kept secret until a Canadian Press exposé published this weekend. The investigation into the explicit details of the guerrilla war was made possible thanks to a FOIA request into veterinarian records — the secret weapon of both journalists covering bureaucracy and zoo-war reporters. 

The six female baboons at the Toronto Zoo have suffered awful wounds — some requiring surgery — from bitten tails, ripped-out hair, and scratched faces. The least injured baboon — and the presumed usurper — was 18-year-old Putsie, the oldest female baboon. Now, the Canadian Press reporter notes, Molly is waiting for the cruel passage of time to exact its revenge against Putsie for her: “[T]wo females sit on the throne in an uncomfortable truce, with the rightful heir biding her time until the older one dies.” 

The zoo has not announced any worries that Putsie will try to expand her kingdom beyond the baboon house, or said whether she has any plans to run against Justin Trudeau in the next parliamentary election. However, those documents may just not have been requested by reporters yet.

Baboons Declare War at Toronto Zoo