Galago moholiSouth African galago

Geographic Range

Galago moholi is found in southern Africa from Angola to Tanzania, including Zimbabwe, the Transvaal, and parts of Burundi and Rwanda. ("Southern lesser bush baby, South African galago Galago moholi", 2009)


South African galagos inhabit semi-arid woodlands, savanna woodlands, gallery forests, and the edges of wooded areas. They are often associated with Acacia trees, the exudates of which are dietary staple. South African galagos can be found at all levels of a forest canopy, often resting and breeding in the holes of Acacia trees and the hollowed out trunks of mopane (Colophospermum mopane) trees. (Bearer, et al., 2008; Caton, et al., 2000)

Physical Description

South African galagos are small prosimians with a head and body length of 14 to 17 cm. Males are larger, from 160 to 255 g, females are from 142 to 229 g. They have grey to light brown fur that lightens and takes on a yellowish tinge on the limbs and ventral surface. They have extremely large ears that have four transverse ridges that allow the tips to be bent down almost all the way to the base. The ears can be moved independently and are thought to be among the largest ears, proportionate to body size, of all primates. South African galagos have huge orange eyes that are surrounded by a dark mask of fur. The tail is an average of 11 to 28 cm and is dark in color. Galago moholi has the tooth comb and grooming claw typical of Strepsirrhini. In their ear canal the tympanic ring is fused with the lateral wall, like other galagos and lorises. They have longer hindlimbs than forelimbs with an intermembral index of 54 which makes them well adapted for vertical clinging and leaping. South African galagos have a chromosome number of 38. ("Southern lesser bush baby, South African galago Galago moholi", 2009; Fleagle, 1999; Harcourt and Bearder, 1989)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    M: 160 F: 142 to M: 255 F:229 g
    to oz
  • Average mass
    M: 211 F: 188 g
  • Range length
    140 to 177 mm
    5.51 to 6.97 in
  • Average length
    160 mm
    6.30 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    .2850W cm3.O2/g/hr
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.285 W


South African galagos have a polygynous mating system with territory of dominant males overlapping that of several females. Females have a brief estrous period, lasting 1 to 3 days, during which males become highly competitive, increasing their home range, body weight, and testes volume. Males appear to fall into two distinct mating strategy groups, larger and more dominant males who monopolize females with repeated matings and smaller males who are more opportunistic. Larger males procure more successful matings. Female G. moholi exhibit estrus swellings and do not have synchronized fertility. ("Southern lesser bush baby, South African galago Galago moholi", 2009; Gron, 2008; Pullen, 2004)

South African galago females and males become sexually mature around 300 days old. There are two mating seasons a year corresponding to births between January and February and between October and November. South African galagos may give birth to 2 sets of twins a year. Females construct nests in which to give birth to and raise their offspring. They may make their own, open-topped nest, or take over an uninhabited bird nest, mat of foliage, or tree hollow. After a 121 to 124 day gestation period, females give birth to offspring weighing approximately 10 grams that have their eyes open and are furred. Females give birth to a single offspring at their first pregnancy, then produce twins in subsequent litters. The mother carries the babies by the scruff of their necks for the first 50 days. Weaning occurs after approximately 93 days. ("Southern lesser bush baby, South African galago Galago moholi", 2009; Pullen, 2004; "Southern lesser bush baby, South African galago Galago moholi", 2009; de Magalhaes, et al., 2009; Pullen, 2004; "Southern lesser bush baby, South African galago Galago moholi", 2009; de Magalhaes, et al., 2009; Pullen, 2004)

  • Breeding interval
    South African galagos breed twice yearly.
  • Breeding season
    South African galagos typically give birth once between January and February and again between October and November.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    121 to 124 days
  • Average gestation period
    123 days
  • Average weaning age
    93 days
  • Average time to independence
    50 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    300 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    300 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    300 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    300 days

The young are born furred and have open eyes at birth. They stay in the nest for the first 10 to 11 days. In captivity the babies are capable of clinging to branches within the first day and begin walking in a few days. Females nurse their offspring for about 11 weeks though young may begin to catch insects at 4 weeks of age. Mothers park their infants in tree forks or tangles of vegetation while they forage. The offspring will cling quietly and unmoving for up to three hours, being checked on occasionally by the mother. If the infant is in danger or left alone too long it will emit distress calls which quickly summon the mother. The female will carry the offspring to a safer location if she senses threat. After 10 months young South African galagos reach sexual maturity at which point males will emigrate. Females often stay with their mothers longer. Males do not directly participate in caring for the offspring. (Gron, 2008)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents


South African galagos have a maximum recorded lifespan of 16.6 years. (de Magalhaes, et al., 2009)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    16.6 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    16.6 years


South African galagos live in small social groups. They can be found sleeping in groups of 2 to 7 during the day. These groups are typically comprised of a female and several of her young. At night the groups separate to forage independently. South African galagos spend approximately 70% of their waking time alone. The ranges of females are related to age. Females with larger age differences are much more likely to have overlapping ranges. Aggressive territorial behavior may be seen at range borders. Dominance interactions of males are also based on age. Dominant males are the only ones that defend territories and are often the largest and most aggressive. Juvenile males emigrate from the natal range, traveling a few kilometers either east or west over a few successive nights. When they encounter another member of their species they will smell and touch noses after which they may groom each other or display aggressive behavior. (Bearer, et al., 2008; Fleagle, 1999; Gron, 2008)

  • Average territory size
    6.7 (f) to 11 (m) ha. km^2

Home Range

Dominant males have territories that overlap those of several females. The average home range for a male is 11 ha and a female is 6.7 ha. (Harcourt and Bearder, 1989)

Communication and Perception

While generally living in small family groups, South African galagos communicate with one another over long distances using loud calls. These calls are thought to maintain contact within a group, advertise territory, or serve as an alarm. If an alarm call is heard other South African galagos join in and even mob the potential predator. Young call to their mothers using a clicking sound. South African galagos also employ olfactory modes of communication by "urine washing" their hands and feet. This behavior is more common in dominant males. It is also possible that the urine on the foot pads helps them to grip branches more easily. They also use allogrooming in social interactions. (Gron, 2008; Harcourt and Bearder, 1989)

Food Habits

South African galagos eat exclusively arthropods and tree exudates. Arthropods, including butterflies, moths and beetles, comprise the majority of the diet. Acacia gums also play a large role in the diet, especially those from Acacia karroo, Acacia tortilis, and Acacia nilotica. Plant exudates are scraped from the tree using the tooth-scraper on the lower mandible on nightly visits. Gums are released when moth and beetle larvae bore beneath the bark of the Acacia trees. Gums are available year round and are often relied upon more heavily during the winter months or in times of reduced insect availability. Galago moholi posses physical adaptations for eating plant gums, including a rough, narrow tongue capable of harvesting gums from insect holes and tree crevices, well developed tooth-scrapers and a proportionally large cecum and hindgut to digest complex carbohydrates. Galago moholi is a caeco-ansal fermenter with the cecum, proximal colon, and ansa coli each providing distinct chambers for fermentation. Gums get digested in the fluid phase and get fermented more quickly that other, more high quality, foods like insects. This allows South African galagos to consume a relatively nutrient poor diet. (Mzilikazi, 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • sap or other plant fluids


South African galagos are preyed on by large birds, including eagles and owls, as well as snakes, mongooses, and civets and genets. They protect themselves from predation by nesting in tree holes and being active at night. Research suggests that Galago moholi lack seasonal torpor (heterothermy) to maximize reproductive success in a high predator environment. South African galagos avoid predation with warning calls among group members and agile leaping. (Gron, 2008; Mzilikazi, 2006)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

South African galagos eat insects and provide food for large birds of prey and mid-sized mammalian predators.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

South African galagos benefit humans economically by bringing researchers and ecotourists to regions they inhabit. They may reduce insect pest populations.

  • Positive Impacts
  • ecotourism
  • research and education
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Galago moholi on humans.

Conservation Status

South African galagos are on Appendix II of CITES which indicates they are currently at low risk for extinction and the IUCN Red List indicates they have a stable population without major threats. In fact, the range of G. moholi is expanding in some areas.


Therien Poynter (author), University of Oregon, Stephen Frost (editor, instructor), University of Oregon, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


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Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of The World, 6th Edition. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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