Around you, the night is black as pitch, except for the pair of massive, glowing eyes peering down from the branches above. You blink, and suddenly they’ve moved to a different, nearer branch. You hold your breath, hoping the creature won’t see you…
No, this isn’t the start of a horror movie, it’s the start of a bush baby—also known as galago—sighting! And if you’ve never seen one, a single glance will probably convince you the only danger from these tiny animals is viral…videos.
About the size of a squirrel, these nocturnal creatures leap through the air from branch to branch, often covering distances of over 10 yards in just seconds. Urine marking on the way means that, especially near their nests, they often leap through the exact same series of branches every time (and you thought humans had a lock on OCD).
Though they’re often lumped in with primates, “proto-primate” would be more accurate; along with lemurs, tarsiers, and lorises, bushbabies are considered “prosimians.” Less intelligent than simian species, and lacking some of the most recognizable morphologies of their distant cousins (for example, large brains), prosimians share their own unique set of features, including good low-light vision, “toilet claws” for grooming, and giving birth to litters.
So why “babies?” Is it because looking at one, your first impulse is to nestle it in your arms and coo?
Well, maybe, but more likely the colloquial name for galagos comes from their cries, which sound distinctly (you guessed it) baby-like. Have a listen:
Sounds like that echoing through the pitch-dark woods on an African night without such a good explanation, though? DEFINITELY the start of a good horror movie!
Audio: World Wildlife Fund