Meet the King Baboon Tarantula or Pelinobius muticus, formerly known as Citharischius crawshayi.

Text by Nyza Faustine Ho
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim

The King Baboon Tarantula is one of the large st baboons in its class, and one of thelongest living baboon tarantulas as well. The temperament and feeding response of these creatures divides tarantula fanciers, who either greatly like or dislike them.

They are very entertaining to watch during feeding because this is one of the few times they will leave their burrows. The king baboon tarantula is a hardy species and would’ve been easy to care for if it wasn’t for their wicked temperament and lightning speed.

It is not a display tarantula that is always visible in its terrarium. It likes hiding and making burrows inside their terrariums and are classified as a fossorial species.

Name Confusion

“Baboon” is a term used for tarantulas found in Africa. It has also been suggested that the term baboon came from the color of its body hair, which is similar in shade to those of a baboon. The word is often a cause for confusion; in the tarantula keeping hobby, Asian tarantulas are sometimes called baboons by some keepers. However, Asian tarantulas are not supposed to be called baboon tarantulas because they are not from Africa.

Also, Asian species of tarantulas have very different needs compared to baboons. The African species of tarantula can usually withstand dry conditions due to its normal habitat and can survive without a problem during the dry season with enough food that contains moisture and very limited water. The Asian tarantula species are often from rainforests or humid habitats, and require more water in order to survive.

There are similarities between the two, though. These include their venom potency, speed, and lack of urticating hairs for defense (which may be the reason why they have more potent venom compared to the Brachypelma or the bird-eaters). However, this does not mean that the care requirements are the same in captivity; following the wrong ones will cause great stress in the tarantula or even death in the long run. Molting problems or mites can also be a problem for baboons when housed in a very moist or wet environment, which is ideal for the Asian species.

Home Webbed Home

Baboon tarantulas are very fast and web excessively in their terrariums when kept in captivity. Twigs can be put in as anchors for webs. The king baboon tarantula doesn’t need any hides for it is able to make its own home. What it needs is a lot of substrate to make burrows in. The complex burrows that the king baboon is able to make when given an adequate amount of substrate makes it quite a creative “pet-hole” tarantula. As baboons came from dry areas in Africa, they don’t need wet substrate. However a water source must still be available in the terrarium to avoid dehydration.

There are different baboon tarantulas in the tarantula keeping hobby. Some baboon tarantulas are even known to swim when hunting for food, while others are land or tree dwellers.

The king baboon tarantula has not yet been housed in a communal setup in the Philippines.

Breeding

The king baboon tarantula was successfully bred locally in 2015; this was the first king baboon breeding to ever be recorded in the Philippines. The king baboon is able to breed when it reaches a size of 6 inches, but is said to reach up to 9 inches in captivity. Baboon tarantulas are also known to have second clutches of eggs even just after one mating attempt as long as the male successfully deposits his sperm in the female.

Practical Advice

Two experienced keepers of the King Baboon Tarantula—Teddy De Silva, Jr. from Batangas Tarantula Keepers and Taranto Lex—shared their expertise and opinions about the creature with Animal Scene.

Q: What is the characteristic of the king baboon tarantula that makes it stand out from others?

Teddy: Based on my experience, [the] king baboon tarantula is one of the most aggressive species that I’ve ever kept. When provoked, they will [strike] a [threatening] pose repeatedly. It’s a very large baboon, with long legs, [a] large abdomen, and super long fangs.

Taranto Lex: It’s the ultimate fossorial (burrowing) species from Africa. Many African tarantulas are fossorial or hiding/burrowing species but this one will almost always dig into the substrate and make [its] own home.

Q: Why do you like the King Baboon Tarantula?

Teddy: Well, the King Baboon Tarantula will challenge you [when it comes to] keeping baboons. It’s a slow growing tarantula, so every molt is like an achievement for me… The color stands out of all the baboons that I’ve kept; [it’s] one of the most beautiful species of baboons for me.

Taranto Lex: I think it speaks well of the skills of a keeper to keep a [tarantula] well despite the fact that it can rarely be seen. Some compare the experience of keeping a P. muticus [as being] akin to keeping an enclosure with substrate and a hole, hence the term “pet hole.”

Q: Can you describe the enclosure setup that is best for a King Baboon Tarantula? What particular environmental parameters (temperature, humidity, and others) are important when keeping this species?

Teddy: For me it should have a deep substrate with…good ventilation; [the] temperature should be at least 75-90˚F and…humidity not less than 75-80%. In [my setup], I put [in] some branches and [a] hide and of course, [a] water source is important.

Taranto Lex: I don’t bother with monitoring temperature and humidity since we live in a country with only two seasons and not much variance in [temperature]. I would keep it in a deep enclosure with at least 6 to 8 inches (more is better) of substrate. The hole helps the [tarantula] control its environment better. Just provide a medium sized water dish for [when] it gets thirsty.

Q: How long can the King baboon Tarantula live in captivity?

Teddy: Well it will always [depend] upon the feeding process of the keeper and the feeding response of the specie, but in captivity, [using] normal feeding [processes], it can live up to 10-15 years.

Taranto Lex: I understand females live up to 15 years. Males live less than half that long, and [have an] even shorter life span when overfed.

Q: Can you recommend this species as a first tarantula? Why or why not?

Teddy: NO! Definitely not! It’s a highly aggressive tarantula and only experienced keepers can handle it.

Taranto Lex: I would not recommend it for a beginner because, as an Old World species with potent venom [that is] relatively quick, it may be too much for a beginner to handle.

Q: Can you describe the venom potency of the King Baboon Tarantula? Have you ever been bitten by a King Baboon Tarantula?

Teddy: Well, I have never been bitten of any kind of tarantula, but they say the venom…of a [King Baboon Tarantula] is more potent than [those of] the other [kinds] of baboons; maybe that’s why they call it [the] “King”: [due to its] size and venom [potency].

Taranto Lex: No.

Additional sources:
http://bio.slu.edu/mayden/systematics/bsc420520lect2.html
http://iczn.org/faqs

This appeared as “An Intriguing Tarantula” in Animal Scene’s April 2016 issue.