Imagine being in the bush in Africa, late at night. You are in the pitch-black darkness where you hear the churring of night jars and a light wind moving through the flora. Combine that sound with loud wailing, like a human baby crying in distress.
You have heard a bush baby.
Bush babies, also known as galago, have a very distinct way of communication. Their vocalization can be done through varied inhalations and exhalations, and they have many different types of calls; social cohesion and contact calls, threat and distress calls, also attention and alarm calls when predators like owls, genet or snakes are around.
Bush babies have huge and prominent forward-facing and ruby-red eyes that provide them with excellent night vision. They also have big ears that can fold and unfold.
Because of the distinct sound and appearance of the bush babies, there’s plenty of African folklore, tales and beliefs that are related to them.
Bush babies have become a rather spooky and mysterious creature of the night by some, considered and perceived as a fiercely dangerous primate. In North Africa bush babies are viewed as a spiritual creature.
For example, bush babies are believed to sound like crying babies at night in order to attract an unsuspecting passerby who would think a real baby is crying. After catching the person, the bush babies are believed to eat the victim until only some bones are left − perhaps a toe nail too, who knows.
I have enjoyed listening to many of these stories and tales while chatting with local staff from the nearby villages working in the safari camps. The seriousness and belief of some of the tales being very strong and real through their facial and animated vocal expressions as they narrated bloody gruesome fearful ordeals, terror and havoc caused by the bush babies.
I must confess that sometimes it was very difficult to keep a straight face while trying to comprehend myth against facts in my mind, as some of the horrific and terrifying narrations went on and on by the camp fire with different beliefs and views from various tribes. It was interesting to learn how some local folk perceive these animals.
Bush babies are omnivores and their diet mostly consists of tree gum, fruits, and insects. Their hind legs are elongated and extremely powerful. Agility may best describe these primates.
Apart from potential predators of bush babies, their survival is threatened by human. Clearing of forests and woodlands to pave way for farmland, charcoal manufacturing, road and constructions of buildings are among some of the contributing factors.
Cover photo: David Yu/Flickr