Also referred as Rock rabbits or Dassie, Hyraxes are one of the exceptional wildlife species that occur in the Pearl of Africa. There are several sub-species of these animals that include Rock hyraxes (scientifically known as Procavia capanses), the tree hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis) and yellow spelled hyrax (Tteterohyrax brusei).
The rock hyraxes are grayish or yellowish brown in color and their dorsal spots are covered with black or yellow hair and surprisingly their heads are more wounded and their noses are blunt than the other hyrax species. The yellow-spelled hyraxes are slightly smaller and have more pointed-like noses and have conspicuous white patches above their eyes and dorsal spots are in whitish or yellowish in color.
These animals are very adaptable but mainly occupy from dry savannah habitats, thick rainforests to the cold Afro-alpine moorland. They can live within areas of up to 4267 meters (14000 feet) above sea level.
Unlike other grazing and browsing animals, these animals don’t use the incisors at the front of their jaws for cutting leaves and grass but instead use molar teeth at the side of their jaws. Rock hyraxes are active during daytime and are always sighted feeding close to the entrances of their shelters. They mainly occupy rocky terrains across sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
Hyraxes are omnivores that spend many hours of the day sunbathing, especially in the mornings which is then followed by short exclusions to feed. Their diet mainly comprises of herbs, grasses, insects, fruits, leaves, flowers, birds, eggs and lizards among others. Interestingly, these animals can spend a long time without drinking water, because they can obtain enough moisture from the food they consume. Some species, especially the tree hyraxes feed on specifically fruits and leaves.
They are nocturnal animals although the rock hyraxes are not as social as other Hyrax sub-species that are always spotted in pairs but smaller groups. Much as are not ruminants, they have complex and multi-chambered stomachs that make it possible for symbiotic bacteria to break down hard plant materials to digestible fiber.
Reach sexual maturity at 16 to 17 months and their gestation period is between 7-8 months depending on the sub-species and females give birth to up to four offsprings that are weaned at one to five months old
They are also known as Rock rabbits because they look-like rabbits or rather over-sized guinea pigs with rounded ears and no tails. These animals have stumpy toes with hoof-like nails with at least four toes on each of their feet and three on each of the back feet.
Usually, the longer and claw-like nails on the inside toes of their back feet are usually used for grooming and scratching especially for the tree hyrax species. Generally, the Rock hyraxes live in colonies of 50 to 80 members and do not dig burrows but stay within natural crevices of rocks or boulders. Surprisingly, they inhabit latrines in some places and deposits from their urine form rock faces.
Interestingly, Hyraxes are sometimes said to be the closest relatives of the elephants much as it is still disputed.
Hyraxes use vocalizations for communication and these include shrinks, twitters, whistles and goals with the tree hyraxes being the most wonderful because they use squeak of whistle then change to pig-like screams as they climb or go down trees at night.