Bushbaby

Galagonidae: Galago Family

The 9 species of galagos, or bushbabies are found only in Africa. All species are arboreal. They have long limbs and tails and are excellent leapers.

Bushbaby

The bushbaby, or lesser galago, has the widest distribution of any species of African prosimian. It is found in the trees of open woodland and among the thickets of savannah habitats from Senegal to Tanzania. Bushbabies also live on Zanzibar. Scent-marking is very important to these small primates. Males will urinate on their hands, thereby depositing their scent as they climb around on branches.

Bushbabies are strictly tree-living animals. They have elongated feet that allow them to hop and leap a little like a kangaroo, but make them far from agile on the ground. The primates live in large crowds, although there is little social interaction. Males are territorial by nature, defending an area from others of their own kind.

The bushbaby has wide eyes for seeing in the dark. It also has thickened pads on the tips of its fingers, which give the bushbaby more grip when climbing.

They sleep during the day, several bushbabies often sharing a nest in a thicket of vegetation or tree hollow. When awake in the day the bushbabies are sluggish and cautious, but when night falls the primates transform into agile climbers. Emerging under cover of darkness, bushbabies may travel distances of up to 2 km (1.2 miles) during the course of a single night. Living in relatively open country, they can also hop along the ground and can walk on all fours, too. They urinate on the hairless palms of their hands and soles of the feet to helps them grip better. The urine also leaves a trail of scent through the branches, which may help the bushbaby to find its way back to the nest in the darkness.

A bushbaby’s favourite prey is grasshoppers. They also consume chicks, eggs and fruits. In periods of famine, the animals survive on sap and gum. Bushbabies are polyganous, and males fight for access to mates.

Distribution: These bushbabies occur in areas of bush in the central part of southern Africa, in savanna and semi-arid woodland areas.

Habitat: Woodlands and savannahs.

Weight: 150 - 250 g (5.3 - 8.8 oz)

Length: 27 - 44 cm (11 - 17 in) overall; tail is longer than the body

Maturity: 9 - 12 months

Gestation Period: About 125 days

Breeding: 1 - 2; weaning occurs at 3.5 months; females produce litters at intervals of 4 - 8 months.

Diet: Mainly invertebrates such as moths and grasshoppers; also fruit, seeds and flowers

Lifespan: Up to 16 years.

Status: Common.

Ears

These have four distinctive ridges and can be bent, helping the bushbaby locate the source of a sound.

Eyes

Relatively large and directed forwards, these allow the bushbaby to jump safely.

Tail

This helps the bushbaby to balance and is covered with long hair at its tip.

Hands

The thumbs are not opposable but this does not disadvantage the bushbaby when climbing.

Motherhood

A young bushbaby spends the first 10 - 14 days of its life in its nest, then moves around with its mother, clinging on to her fur.

JUMPING

The bushbaby springs off a branch with its hind legs and grabs the branch with its hind feet on landing.

A bushbaby’s front paw, showing the lack of a functional thumb.

Greater Bushbaby

Greater galagos are found in forests from southern Sudan to eastern South Africa and Angola. Like other galago species, the greater galago has thick woolly hair. The greater bushbaby is a strongly built animal, with a pointed muzzle and large eyes. Its hands and feet are adapted for grasping, with opposable thumbs and great toes. The animal grooms itself with its tongue, teeth and claws. Also, like its relatives, this species has pads on its fingers and toes to aid with gripping. (These are the same features that have evolved into the loose, wrinkles and folds on the palm of a human’s hands.) However, unlike those of the bushbaby, the hind feet of the greater galago are not elongated. Consequently, the greater bushbaby makes smaller leaps and generally moves by climbing from branch to branch.

Greater galagos survive on gums, fruits and insects. The composition of its diet depends on its location: in southern Africa nearly two-thirds of the animal’s diet is made up of gum and saps, while in Kenya insects make up half its diet. Termites appear to be the most common insect eaten by greater galagos.

This species is polyganous. Males defend a large home range, which contains the territories of several females. Mating takes place between April and July, depending on geographical location.

This species is the largest species of galago. Males are larger than the females. The greater bushbaby is also known as the thick-tailed galago on account of its bushy tail.

Much of the bushbaby's life is spent in the trees, where it is active at night and feeds on insects, reptiles, birds and birds’ eggs and plant material. It makes a rapid pounce to seize prey and kills it with a bite. It has a call like the cry of a child (hence the name bushbaby) made most frequently in the breeding season.

The female is territorial. She gives birth to a litter of 1 to 3 young between May and October, after a gestation of 126 to 136 days. Males leave the mothers territory following puberty, but young females maintain their social relationship with the mother.

Distribution: Eastern and southern Africa from Sudan to Angola and South Africa.

Habitat: Woodlands and forests.

Food: Gums, fruits and insects.

Size: 28 - 37 cm (11 - 14.5 in); 1 - 2 kg (2.25 - 4.5 lb).

Maturity: 2 years, but males will not breed until later.

Breeding: Litters of 2-3 young born once a year, in November in the south but earlier in equatorial regions.

Life span: 15 years in the wild but up to 18 years in captivity.

Status: Lower risk.

Lesser Bushbaby

Range: Africa: Senegal to Somalia and Tanzania.

Habitat: Savanna, bush, woodland.

Size: Body: 5 1/2 - 8 1/4 in (14 - 21 cm). Tail: 7 3/4 - 11 3/4 in (20 - 30 cm).

More active and lively than its relative the greater bushbaby, this species moves with great agility in the trees and hops and leaps with ease. Like all its family, it sleeps up in the trees during the day and hunts for food at night. Spiders, scorpions, insects, young birds, lizards, fruit, seeds and nectar are all included in its diet.

The lesser bushbaby lives in a family group, the members of which sleep together but disperse on waking.

Breeding habits vary slightly in different areas of the range. In regions where there are two rainy seasons, females have two litters a year, each usually of only 1 offspring. In areas where there is only one rainy season, females produce one litter, often, but not always, of twins. The gestation period varies between 128 and 146 days, and the young are fully developed at approximately 4 months.

Gallery of Bushbaby