You may spot their shining eyes bouncing around in your torch beam, or wake in the small hours to their ear-splitting shrieks. Just like the bawling of a distressed infant. But either way, bushbabies, also called galagos, are tricky animals to observe. Scientists have only recently discovered that there are at least 18 different species of these diminutive primates. They comprise three greater galagos, which are larger, with thicker tails, and 15 squirrel-sized lesser galagos.

Here are a few interesting tidbits that may intrigue you:

  1. Bushbabies belong to the prosimian group of primates, which also includes the lemurs of Madagascar and the lorises of Asia. They evolved before monkeys, and are thought to have become nocturnal to avoid competition with their larger primate cousins.
  2. These creatures mark their territory by urinating on their hands and thus spreading their scent as they leap around from tree to tree.
  3. They can clear up to 2.5m in a single jump because they possess extremely powerful back leg muscles. These muscles take up one quarter of the animal’s weight.
  4. Delicate bat-like ears allow them to track insects in the dark and catch them in flight. When leaping between thorny bushes, bushbabies fold back their ears to protect them.
  5. Special comb-like incisor teeth allow them to scrape gum from acacia trees. Tree gum forms an important part of their diet.

Nocturnal Creatures

When safari-goers crawl into their sleeping bags, bunks or beds at night, their day is over. But for the nocturnal wildlife, like the bushbabies, their day has just begun. For those who are curious to know what the creatures of the night are up to, a pair of good night vision goggles or binoculars will unveil all the mysteries of African safari life in the wild.  If you've had any interesting encounters with African wildlife – nocturnal or not – tell us about your experiences. Follow us on Facebook and we can share our stories!

African Safari Tours

By Mike Unwin
United Kingdom UK

Mike is an award-winning wildlife writer, former editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

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