Bushbabies are primates, but they are not monkeys. Along with lemurs, pottos and lorises, they form the primate suborder of prosimians or “pre-monkeys”. Like most prosimians, bushbabies are nocturnal and they have a reflective layer in their large eyes that allows them to see in the dark. Prosimians also have an elongated nose, almost like a snout, and are heavily reliant on their sense of smell.
The South African Lesser Bushbaby has large eyes, a soft furry body, a small, rounded head, and extremely mobile, membranous ears.
It is strictly nocturnal and spends a lot of time grooming before embarking on the night’s activities.
Lesser bushbabies are more lively than the thick-tailed bushbaby, and also spend relatively more time in trees: they are known for their spectacular leaping abilities. These tiny animals can jump an astounding 5 meters from a vertical position on one tree to the next. They use their strong legs to push off for a jump and their tail works like a rudder to direct them to their desired landing spot.
They often forage in acacias, the gum from which is a major item in their diet and is either licked or chewed. They also eats insects, scorpions and small reptiles. These amazing hunters can catch flying prey in mid-air whilst leaping from tree to tree. Bushbabies are also partial to acacia gum, which they gouge out of trees using their toothcomb. This dental apparatus is common amongst prosimians and consists of forward jutting teeth in the front of the lower jaw.
Bushbabies commonly use their toothcombs for grooming and are therefore ingeniously equipped with a second, pointy tongue underneath their normal one (called sublingua), which they use like a toothpick to remove any debris stuck in the toothcomb.
If a convenient hole is unavailable, then the lesser bushbaby will make itself a flat, treetop nest or take over a disused bird’s nest.
When a group of lesser bushbabies share a nest, they lie at all angles, some upside down, in comfort: their ears folded back, forefeet covering the head and tail curling over it. They take a moment or two to wake up when woken and are quite vulnerable at this time.
Bushbabies make loud vocalizations that sound like crying human infants, which is what earned them their funny name. The different species of bushbaby look extremely similar, but they can be told apart by analyzing their differing vocalizations, especially the loud calls. Also helpful in differentiating the various galago are hand pad shapes, reproductive behaviors, genetic analysis and male genital comparisons.
Lesser bushbabies wet the soles of their feet with urine which helps dominant males to mark out their territory. This ‘urine washing’ is also part of their mating behavior. The young are born in the shelter of a nest, which may be re-lined with leaves. When foraging the mother will carry the young from the nest and leave them clinging to a branch, returning them to the nest before dawn. Potential predators of bushbabies include mongooses, genets, jackals, felids, raptors (especially owls), and snakes.
Within these locales its preferred habitat is the savannahs, woodlands, riverine bush and the fringes of forests. In particular, near the Limpopo River between points of confluence with the Marico and Notwani Rivers. Being a South African species, it has a relatively high tolerance for temperature variation.
Places in Southern Africa where the Bushbaby can be found include Chobe National P ark, Makgadikgadi Pan, Mashatu Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, Savuti, Hluhluwe Game Reserves, Kalahari Gemsbok Park, Kruger National Park, Madikwe National Park, St Lucia Wetlands, Maputaland Coastal Reserve, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Caprivi Region, Damaraland, Etosha National Park, Kafue, Lechwe Plains, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa and Mosi-oa-Tunya Park.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Limpopo is taking care of abandoned, orphaned, injured and poisoned wildlife. Animal species are brought to the centre from all corners of South Africa, and once healthy enough, re-introduced into their natural environments.
The Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary is a privately owned, non-subsidized sanctuary, covering approximately 7 ha, situated alongside the elephant sanctuary in one of the many kloofs of the Magaliesberg mountain range. Monkeyland primate sanctuary is currently the top eco-tourism attraction on the Garden Route and for very sound and sunny reasons. Monkeyland has captured the hearts of visitors in its efforts to rehabilitate and free previously caged primates. The sanctuary is exceptional as it caters for several species of primates who are not caged. They are free to move about the forest and this they do most harmoniously.
In the past Bushbabies once inhabited the suburbs from Lonehill to Sunninghill and Bryanston to Randburg. Craigavon is the one remaining suburb in the area, which still has a precious few. Due to the rapid development taking place in Craigavon, Bushbaby habitat and survival is threatened. Although Galago moholi is not listed as endangered on the red data list, the latest National Assessment maintains that this species is not guaranteed a future, particularly in Gauteng. Bushbaby SOS has been incorporated into the Klein Jukskei Conservancy’s umbrella and together they fight to save their future as well as enhance the lifestyle in this area.