September 2021

The lesser bushbaby (Galago moholi)

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The lesser bushbaby (Galago moholi)

This tiny nocturnal primate is often glimpsed on night drives. Most of the time all we get to see are big red eyes glowing from a tree or shrub before they disappear into the night. A bushbaby is an exceptionally agile climber and leaper that can jump over two metres upwards and five metres in length. It is a primitive primate that belongs to the prosimians group, which includes lemurs, lorises and tarsiers. It belongs to the Galagidae family and is found only in Africa.

During these last couple of months we had some very good sightings and, armed with a little patience, we were lucky to watch a pair exit from a hollow in a marula tree, at sunset, on a number of occasions.

Their diet consists mainly of invertebrates as well as tree gum, especially during the winter months when there are less insects.  They have comb-like incisors called tooth-combs.

Males are slightly larger than the females weighing in at around 16O grams. The tail is long and bushy towards the tip. The total body length is around 37 cm - head to body 15 cm and tail 22 cm.

According to a primate specialist group Africa has 216 species of primates (111 on the mainland and 105 in Madagascar). Before 1980 only six species of Galagos were recognized, but studies since then, especially of their vocalizations, have resulted in the identification of up to 20 species, but scientists believe there could be close to 40 species in Africa.

In southern Africa we have three species, the lesser bushbaby or lesser galago, the larger thick-tailed bushbaby, occasionally seen on safari here at Singita Sabi Sand, with 2021 proving to be a great year as we have enjoyed at least three sightings so far in the staff village. About a month ago we heard one alarming with loud cries for over 20 mins at a young male leopard that was lying close to the staff village, a first for me! The third species, Grant’s lesser bushbaby is found in coastal and evergreen forests of Mozambique.

This evening as we were heading home after a wonderful drive where we were lucky to spend time with a pack of 12 wild dogs, playing in the open southern plains and having the most amazing sundowner with a breeding herd of elephants walk pass us, Musa spotted a bushbaby bouncing like a kangaroo just as I was talking about the journal entry that was now due!

Marc Eschenlohr
By Marc Eschenlohr
Senior Field Guide