Baboon spiders known in more common parlance as “tarantulas” are large hairy spiders that live in cylindrical, open ended burrows in the ground. Baboon spiders belong to the family Theraphosidae. Some species are venomous to man (e.g. the small baboon spider from the Western Cape – Harpactirella lightfooti)whereas the larger varieties are only mildly venomous. Because of their large jaws – called chelicerae – all baboon spiders can inflict a painful bite.
The name “baboon spider” comes from the hairy appearance of the spider and from the pads of the spiders tarsi (feet) which resemble the colour and texture of that of a baboons foot. The baboon spider in the top images is from the Ceratogyrus genus – known as the horned baboon spider. The lower image appears to be a golden – brown baboon spider. Recent observations have suggested that the burrow entrances of different genera of baboon spiders differ. That of Ceratogyrus is flush with the surrounding substrate whereas that of Pterinochilus (the golden brown baboon spider) is raised some 2cm above the substrate with leaves, twigs and grass woven into an extended ilk lining. Baboon spiders are much in demand as pets and have been recorded as living as long as 20 years. Once removed from a mature burrow, baboon spiders are unable to dig a new one, and have to live in a sheet of silk suspended between supports like a hammock.