Thursday, June 5, 2014


There are four species of hyrax: (1) the rock hyrax; (2) the bush hyrax, also known as the yellow-spotted rock hyrax; (3) the western tree hyrax; and (4) the southern tree hyrax. In East Africa where we were visiting recently (Kenya and Tanzania), there are no western tree hyraxes, but the other three species are there. The rock hyrax is heavily built and it has thick fur. The color varies from dark brown in wetter habitats to light gray in desert habitats. It has a pointed head, short neck and rounded ears. The bush hyrax is less heavily built, has a narrower muzzle, a more conspicuous white mark above each eye and a paler underside than the rock hyrax. The southern tree hyrax has long, soft, gray-brown fur and a paler underside. They tend to be more densely furred than the other hyraxes and more nocturnal. Their hairs are lighter near their tips and their ears have a fringe of white hair. With little experience, I found it difficult to determine what species we were looking it. 

We saw hyraxes in four different areas: (i) among the cabins of our lodge in the Serengeti in Tanzania, apparently living in the rafters of the cabins; 
This hyrax living on one of the individual cabins in the Serena Serengeti compound appears to be a rock hyrax as it has a less distinct eye patch, a lighter underside and a broader snout. 
A companion to the hyrax above. Note how heavy it is and the individual toes.
(ii) brief glimpses of some hyraxes scampering about in a tree in the Lerai Forest in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania (which we were not able to photograph or get good looks at); (iii) among the rocks and trees near our cabins in the Masai Mara in Kenya; 
This was the first hyrax I saw - just outside our cabin in the Serena Mara compound. I believe this is a bush hyrax as the underbelly is more pale and the snout appears thinner and more elongated than those above. 
These cute (bush) hyraxes lived in rocks up a short trail above our Serena Mara cabin. 
This (bush) hyrax rests on a tree stump in the Serena Mara compound. 
This heavy (rock) hyrax was scampering among rocks, a tree stump and cactus in the Serena Mara compound.
and (iv) several adults and at least seven babies living among rocks in Nairobi National Park in Kenya. 
An adult and at least seven baby hyraxes in Nairobi National Park. I am guessing that these are rock hyraxes.
They were curious and would pop out of the trees or rocks to stare at us, but would also quickly disappear with any sudden movements or as we got too close. 
A basking hyrax in Nairobi  NP.
An adult and several babies in Nairobi NP.
Babies in Nairobi NP.
My favorites, in Masai Mara NR. They kept popping out to stare at us, then hiding again as we went closer to them for a better look. 
Hyraxes have some characteristics in common with elephants and manatees and have been called the closest relative to the elephant. Like elephants and manatees, the males lack a scrotum and have testicles in their abdominal cavity next to the kidneys. Females have teats in their armpits and in their groin. Female elephants have teats near their armpits and manatees have teats near their front flippers. Hyraxes have tusks developing from their incisor teeth, as do elephants, while most other mammals have tusks develop from their canine teeth. And like elephants, hyraxes have flattened nails on the tips of their digits, rather than curved elongated claws like most other mammals. Hyraxes have four toes on their front feet and three toes on their back feet. The toes are stumpy with hoof-like nails and their feet have rubbery pads with sweat glands that help them grip when moving up steep surfaces.
Stumpy hoof-like nails on a hyrax.

1 comment:

  1. These remind me a little bit of the marmots found at higher elevations. They are always just poking out their heads to see what's goin' on.