Bush babies are also known as Galagos and (scientifically referred to as Galago senegalensis), these primates are one of the nocturnal that can be encountered during safaris in Uganda. Bush babies derived their name from the child-like cries that they always use to separate their territories and interact with family members, thus, even with their small sizes, bush babies are known to be very “vocal little creatures”.
Bush babies belong to the prosimian group of primates which also include the Lorises of Asia and Lemurs of Madagascar. Whether as, bush babies are believed to have evolved before monkeys and said to be nocturnal to avoid competition with other primate species.
Bush babies range from forests, thickets to savannah woodlands, and in Uganda bush babies can be encountered in different places of the four different Galago subspecies Dwarf bush babies are found within Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, the eastern needle-clawed bush babies, Thomas Bush babies and the dwarf bush babies found Kibale and Bwindi Impenetrable Forests national parks.
Galagos (bush babies) are ancient primates that are closely related to the lemur’s endemic to the Island of Madagascar but are distinguished by the silver grey, reddish to dark brown color of their coats with large ears and eyes and small heads. Their eyes are so enormous in relation to their heads to the point that they cannot even move them in the sockets. Interestingly, if it’s time for shifting their gaze, bush babies have to turn their entire head thus are able to stare directly backwards over their shoulders. Not only that, these primates have long hind legs, soft woolly fur as well as long tails.
They have delicate bat-like ears that allow them to easily catch their prey especially insects in the dark even while in flight. While leaping between thorny bushes, these primates fold back their large ears to protect them.
These animals are generally characterized by the long upper portion of their feet and their unique ability to fold their ears. As earlier said, they are nocturnal but omnivorous with their menu consisting of small birds, fruits, insects but mainly majority of gum species.
Besides their baby-like cries, bush babies make chattering, clucking and croaking sounds or thundering whistles in case of fear or danger and normally mark their territories and routes with urine.
They cling to and leap among tree branches and are exceedingly active and agile. When they go down to the ground, they sit upright move around jumping with their hind legs like Jerboas.
Their gestation period is three to four months and normally give birth to between one and two off spring. Females become aggressive and overprotective before and after giving birth. Their young ones are breastfed for two months and later weaned to feed themselves from there onwards. Although weird, they grow very fast hence making mothers to move slowly and uneasily while transporting them hence at times she carries only one young one and leaves the rest in the nest.
Their predators are always genets, owls, eagles, Servals, African wild cats and large snakes hence the reason they always take refuge and hide during day so as to avoid direct encounter with the enemy. Because they are easily attacked and captured on the ground, they mainly stay in trees and depend on their unique jumping abilities.
Male bush babies check the reproductive readiness or condition of females by smelling their genitals. The former always fight fiercely and the loser will either escape or risk being killed. If the female is on heat, she will aggressively repel the male’s first approaches. If she finally accepts, mating occurs repeatedly for around 5 minutes every two hours.