Also known as the Galago, this funny little creature looks as if it comes from another planet: it has bulging eyes, long dish-like ears, sticky and well-rounded finger tips, as well as an extensive furry tail!
Although as many as 11 species of bushbabies can be found throughout Africa, two subspecies are most common: the Thick-tailed Bushbaby and the Lesser Bushbaby. They mainly inhabit the forested regions of Eastern and Southern Africa.
These nocturnal animals are highly arboreal and seldom seen on land. They mark their territory by urinating on their feet and hands. I’d definitely ask them to wash their hands before supper!
Galagos feed on a wide variety of plants, insects and eggs. They are also very fond of tree gum, flowers, lizards and birds. Their raucous screams and plaintive cries are quite extraordinary at night!
The porcupine is Africa’s largest rodent, feeding primarily on tree bark, gnawed bones, and even ivory from time to time. Its look is unmistakable: it has a large array of lethal quills to defend itself when pursued! While it does not shoot its quills, it will rattle them when annoyed. Eventually, if the intruder is persistent, it will attack in a sideways and backwards running action in an attempt to impale the predator. Lions and leopards are its primary threats.
Like the bushbaby, porcupines are nocturnal animals and usually hide in abandoned burrows or caves during day time. It is always such a thrill to see them wandering about while on a night drive: very cool fellows indeed!
Bat-eared foxes probably have the most entertaining way of hunting down their prey. Their large ears enable them to literally scan the ground in search for food. They have a highly distinguishable way of doing it, listening to every possible vibration one ear at a time! As soon as they pick up something interesting, they immediately dig out a hole to retrieve their meal. Bat-eared foxes are largely fond of insects, small rodents, reptiles, etc.
One great place to see them is in the Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania.
Hyraxes, or Dassies (South Africa), are diurnal animals that live in large colonies of up to 100+ individuals. They are often mistaken with marmots or guinea pigs.
There are two main types of hyraxes: tree hyraxes and rock hyraxes. While tree hyraxes mainly inhabit rocky crevices and tree hollows, rock dassies live amongst koppies, hills and rocky outcrops. In other words, apart from habitat they are very similar in both shape and size. Perhaps the easiest way to discern them from one another is by looking at their dorsal gland (that stands out when aroused): search for a creamy-white dorsal spot (tree dassie), or a black one if it’s a rock hyrax!
Diet-wise, the animals mostly eat leaves, grass and fruits. They are preyed upon by a variety of individuals, including leopards, eagles and pythons. Even certain African tribes will sometimes consume the flesh, known to have a pleasant flavour!
Believe it or not, but the hyrax is commonly stated as the closest living relative of the elephant! Difficult to imagine for such a tiny individual, huh?!
Lemurs are members of a group of primates endemic to the island of Madagascar, off the Southern coast of Africa. While there are currently 99 known species of lemurs occupying the island’s forests, a lot of them are endangered due to loss of habitat and hunting.
Here are a few interesting facts about lemurs:
- They have large eyes for nocturnal vision.
- Their long tail is used for balance and communication purposes.
- Most lemurs do not exhibit sexual dimorphism.
- Their social structure is based on a matriarchal society (female dominance, like hyenas). Extremely rare in the animal kingdom!
- The most famous lemur species is the “Ring-tailed Lemur”, with its zebra-like patterned tail. Remember Julien, from the 2005 animated movie “Madagascar”? 😉