African Bush Babies

(Genus: Galago)

The African Bush Baby, also known as the Galago or Nagapies (meaning “night monkey” in Afrikaans), is a small, nocturnal primate that lives in sub-Saharan Africa. There are multiple species of galagos, but each shares similar habits and characteristics. Being arboreal, they spend most of their lives in trees.

African Bush Babies are exceptionally good jumpers. They use their powerful hind legs and tail to jump great distances, though they are also proficient at running and climbing through trees. The highest reported jump for a bush baby is 2.25 meters. Given their very strong leg muscles and small body weight, they are estimated to be able to jump six to nine times better than a frog in relation to their body length.

The galago typically gets around by jumping through trees and bushes. The South African galago will typically inhabit acacia trees on savannahs while some species like elusive brown greater bush baby inhabits more tropical and sub tropical forests. With a series of jumps, it can cover distances of nearly 10 meters in a matter of seconds. In the air, they tuck their limbs close to their body to move faster, and release them at the last second to grab onto a branch.

Bush Babies

Galagos have very big eyes that give them excellent night vision, and bat-like ears that wok like radars letting them find insects in the dark. Interestingly, their eyes do not turn in their sockets like owls so they must turn their whole head in jerks to see about themselves. When bouncing through the trees, they tuck their ears in to keep them safe.

Diet of The Bush Baby

The bush baby is an omnivore (vegetation and meat eaters).They mostly eat insects, fruit and other small animals, as well as acacia tree gum. They are known to eat insects and frogs. The larger thick-tailed greater galago will hunt birds.

Social Habits and Breeding

Female African bush babies are very social, and live in small communities with other females and their young. They also love to play with each other, as well as participate in social grooming. They have a particularly long grooming claw or ‘toilet claw on the second toe of their rear feet. As an nocturnal species, several will typically spend the day rolled up together in a tree hollow and then separate at night for hunting.

Males leave the community after puberty to live on their own, and one male will typically mate with an entire group of females. They are known to severely injure each other over the right to mate. Occasionally, “bachelor groups” of single males may live together. Lesser Bush babies have a range of at least 25 different calls.

About 3.5 to 4.5 months after mating, females can give birth to one, two, or three babies, and may become aggressive afterward. They are born with half-closed eyes and can’t move on their own. After 6-8 days, the mother will carry her infants in her mouth, and place them on branches when feeding. After two months, the babies are capable of feeding themselves.

African bush babies have very loud cries that they use to communicate with each other, as well as leaving urine scent markers. By following scent, they can hop on the exact same branch each time. Each species has its own unique set of calls, and scientists are able to tell them apart this way.

At the end of the night, they let out one final group cry, and then regroup to tuck in and rest for the day. This very loud cry helped give way for a local legend, also called the bush baby. This is said to be a powerful creature that can kidnap humans, especially children who don’t stay indoors at night.

Predators of Bush Babies

Predators of the bush baby are numerous and varied. Chimpanzees, blue monkeys, snakes, jackals, lizards and domestic dogs and wild cats. Chimps have been observed fashioning spears to pluck bush babies from their nests.

Conservation status:

Highly threatened. The most vulnerable species, the Rondo dwarf galago, is on the list of the 25 most endangered primates. Loss of habitat is their main threat, and they often live in isolated patches of threatened forest. They are on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

ICUN Red Flag Status
ICUN Red Flag Status

Fantastic Facts About Bush Babies

  • They will sometimes enjoy eating the rotten fruit of the marula tree which ferments and contains alcohol properties, causing the bush baby to fall over and become drunk.
  • There are over twenty species of bush baby.
  • Chimpanzees have been observed shaping branchlets into spears to dig bush babies out of their hollows.

Bush Babies in Literature

Eyes darted upward. Unbeknownst to them, Moho (the bush baby) had been sitting quietly on a high branch. His body swung down. He dangled by his straight arms and hands, his corpulent body swinging for an instant; he dropped to the ground, in front of the young lion with a thud. In silence their faces and eyes stooped down to the now sitting fur ball. He looked at them one after the other with owl-like jerks. Excited wide eyes settled on Jasiri. Before speaking he groomed his chest with his long grooming nail. A look of hubris in his faint smile. “There is Hwange, can be helping,” he said casually in the strange bush baby tongue.

E.G. Price, The Zambezi Allies

A Video of A Bush Baby Waking in Kruger National Park

Q & A

How do bush babies mark their territory?

Bush babies mark their territory by urinating on their hands so the scent is carried with them from tree to tree.

Which animals prey on bush babies?

In the wild eagles, leopards, some primates and pythons will predate bush babies, while monitor lizards will eat their young.

Can bush babies fly?

Bush babies can jump 2.5 meters in one jump due to their muscular back legs.

What is the bush babies favorite food?

A staple diet of the bush baby is acacia tree gum.

Are bush babies diurnal?

Bush babies are nocturnal animals.

Are bush babies primates?

African bush babies are the smalles primate in Africa.

What color are bush babies?

Bush babies have brown-grey coats with their flanks and arms having a yellow tint.

You may like to read about the African Giant Forest hog.

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