Taita mountain dwarf galago (Paragalago sp.)


Unidentified, and probably new primate species – or subspecies – still exists in Taita Hills

Also Taita tree hyrax is most likely new species, endemic to Taita Hills, and in the brink of extinction

In Taita Hills there is small primate species that was first seen in 2002 and then no observations were made until 2018.

Dwarf galagos hunt insects by jumping from small tree to another like its relatives makis in Madagascar. Photo Rosti 2019.

This tiny -only 100-180 grams weighing dwarf galago eats insects in the hearts of most pristine parts of indigenous forests.

Oryx – the International Journal of Conservation published 11.2020 conservation news about Taita mountain dwarf galago: Taita mountain dwarf galago is extant in Taita Hills of Kenya https://doi.org/10.1017/S003060531900142X

Excellent news are that there is unidentified and most likely new primate species, or subspecies in Taita Hills.

Bad news are that is almost extinct.

Cryptic dwarf galagos have intriguing hand morphology. Photo Rosti 2019.

Researcher from Nocturnal Primates Research Group identified calls of Taita mountain dwarf galago as Kenya Coast Dwarf Galago (Paragalago cocos). However these populations have been isolated for millions of years and live in completely different habitat. At the coast forest is low and temperatures high, in the mountains forest is high and temperatures low. All tree species are different between these forests. Thus DNA studies are required for taxonomic identification.

Dwarf galago species are cryptic, meaning that they all look almost the same. Their vocal communication reveals the species, in the darkness of the forest, vocal communication is most important means of communication.

There is urgent need for conservation and replanting of indigenous trees in Taita Hills.

Our research also indicates that tree hyrax in Taita Hills is also new species. Taita tree hyrax has totally different calls than tree hyraxes outside Taita Hills.

Tree hyraxes of Taita Hills are most likely also new species

This is first picture ever taken from Taita tree hyrax. They are highly vocal, but difficult to find. Photo Rosti 2019

Ear splitting calls, strangled thwacks from Taita tree hyrax from Ngangao Forest. Recording Hanna Rosti 2019

Tree hyraxes of Taita Hills should be conserved as Critically Endangered species

Both species are dependent of indigenous trees as their habitat. Dwarf galagos eat insects and tree hyraxes eat leaves of indigenous trees. Both are dependent on tree cavities for daytime shelter.

How these species were found

Mysterious cryptic dwarf galagos was mentioned first in article in Journal of East African Natural History 91: 1–13 (2002) by Andrew Perkin, Thomas Butynski, Simon Bearder, Bernard Agwanda and Benny Bytebier 2002. Nothing happened after the article and nobody knew if this species existed any more.

Taita Hills research station has been the base of the research. Director of research station and professor of Helsinki University Petri Pellikka has contributed enormously to this research even before the beginning.

Professor from University of Helsinki, Jouko Rikkinen told me about this species, as he had been intrigued by it and its survival for years. Professor Rikkinen has been studying biodiversity of Taita Hills since 2009. Knowledge and insights of Jouko Rikkinen has been backbone of this research.

In August 2018 I began searching for these small primates, as no-one knew about their fate. My assistant in the forest was and still is Benson Mwakachola. He has been reliable and supportive companion in sometimes challenging conditions.

After search for several nights, we got super lucky and tiny animal with reddish eyes were looking at us in just few meters away. This dwarf galago seemed interested about us. And we were so happy to see it.

Emeritus professor Simon Bearder from Oxford Brookes University has contributed in many ways as he is expert on nocturnal mammals and primatology. Simon had been one of writers of first article about Taita mountain dwarf galago in 2002.

From the recordings Simon Bearder, who has 40 years of experience from nocturnal animal research in Africa, understood that tree hyrax in Taita Hills is different species than it had been thought to be.

Helsingin Sanomat, largest newspaper in Finland published also article about Taita mountain dwarf galago and tree hyrax https://www.hs.fi/tiede/art-2000006404013.html

Also press release from University of Helsinki:

https://www.helsinki.fi/en/news/life-science-news/enigmatic-small-primate-finally-caught-on-film-in-taita-kenya

News in Daily Mail: Adorable 3.5OUNCE African primate the Taita mountain dwarf galago is caught on camera for the first time in nearly 20 years as the species faces extinction

News in AMED POST:

Elusive tiny primate is captured on camera for the first time in nearly 20 years

Related articles:

Night in Nganagao Forest

Owl butterflies of Ngangao night

Categories:All posts, Dwarf galagos, ForestsTags: , , , , , ,

4 comments

  1. Hi Hannah!

    Fantastic work you are doing. What little cuties! I work with a company that offers financial incentive for conservation of existing forests as well as pays land owners and governments to let us plant new forests for conservation. This gives people initiative to save forests to maintain their 25-year income rather than exploit them which helps species like this continue to exist. We are currently working with the Governor of Narok County to preserve and plant 4.2 million acres there. I would love to connect to plant these little ones some new forests to money around in and help pay the community surrounding to continue to preserve their limited habitat. Please feel free to reach out to me alyssa@globaltreexchange.com

    • Thank you Alyssa so much for your email! This is exactly what we are looking for. I have emailed you and look forward working with you in the future.

  2. Really interesting! I did a population count research in Diani coastal forests in 2018. This was also based on the calls. It was mostly small-eared greater galago that I found, but also a few records of the kenyan coast dwarf galago (paragalago cocos), which calls sound really similar to the taita hills species. It is really almost the same in my opinion. I have been in Wundanyi and also in the indigenous forest during the day. I only heard otelemur garnettii in the village at night. I know that Yvonne de jong has been searching/studying for them back in 2003. The kasigau mountain could be a place where they still occur. It would be really interesting if I can help out with counting and finding new isolated populations. I will be in Kenya from april to august 2020.

    Koen

  3. Thank you Koen. I already sent you fb message. You can also email to me hanna.z.rosti@helsinki.fi

    It would be great to talk more about galagos!

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