Zimbabwe

Harare

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Close and special neighbours

Close and special neighbours

Close and special neighbours

Both the lesser bush baby, or lesser galago, and the thick-tailed bush baby, or greater galago, are common residents in many people’s yards, even those located in residential areas. Their presence is often revealed by their discordant, piercing screams heard at night as they advertise their territories.

The bush babies’ proximity and familiarity around human settlements, as well as certain aspects of their behaviour, results in a surprisingly high number of cases of interaction with humans. I have received calls from people who have found bush babies injured by domestic cats (mostly lesser bush babies, as adults weigh on average about 160g) or dogs (most common in the less arboreal thick-tailed bush baby species), and quite a number of times we have helped those who have discovered abandoned young bush babies either in their houses or gardens.

If we consider the maternal behaviour in both these species it becomes clear why these incidents occur. The lesser galago female moves her young out of the nest when they are about ten days old and leaves them alone on a branch when she goes foraging, making them vulnerable to tree climbing cats, while the greater galago female carries her young around with her from as early as a week after giving birth, making her vulnerable to being chased and caught by dogs.

If a young bush baby is found, determined efforts should be made to encourage the mothers to take it back and only failing that should hand-raising be attempted, after veterinary consultation regarding suitable feeding formulas and regimes, relevant  vaccinations and consultation with National Park officials regarding permits.

Bush babies also get injured in bushfires and are often discovered with injuries sustained from owls. If they are found, handle them with caution as they can deliver a savage bite and are potential carriers of rabies.

We were contacted earlier this year by two families that had come across male thick-tailed bush babies (weighing on average 1.2kg) injured in territorial fights. Both required veterinary intervention, one just pharmacologically after the wounds were cleaned and the other had to have two badly mauled digits partially amputated. After short convalescent periods, both of these animals made full recoveries.

The next time you hear the characteristic “Peeyah! Peeyah! Peeyah! Pya-Pya-wa-wa!” sound in your neighbourhood, just know that there is a keen-eyed, grey-furred animal keeping nightly watch over your garden.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 13, June 2013)