ROCK HYRAX Procavia capensis

According to Mammals of Africa (MOA) 2013 17 subspecies are recognized. However, many of these subspecies have been elevated to level of distinct species.

Rock hyraxes in Mt Kenya. These rock hyraxes live in the altitude of 4300 m asl. Many people climbing to Mt Kenya are first startled by their loud calls that seem to be coming from nowhere.

Rock hyraxes have wide distribution in Africa and in many countries in Middle East

Distribution of Rock hyrax (Map from wikipedia

IUCN assessment of rock hyrax

IUCN status Least Consern LC

Rock hyraxes are dependent on rocky outcrops, mountain cliffs or boulders that provide shelter for them.

From sea level to 4300m asl in Mt Kenya

Rock hyraxes are diurnal group living animals. One group may have even 80 individuals.

More than 90 % of the day is spent resting.

They feed on grasses, buds, fruits, berries.

Huddling behavior is most common interaction. During warmer times rock hyraxes may rest alone.

Rock hyraxes are highly vocal. Fourie (1977) recorded 21 vocal sound and 4 non-vocal sounds.

Rock hyraxes from Mt Kenya

Rock hyraxes singing songs, witch is rare phenomenon among mammals (Koren 2006, Koren & Geffren 2009, Demartsev et al. 2014). In rock hyraxes songs are sang by males. Most complicated and powerful songs are sang by strong males. These songs are most likely individual badges that males use to advertise their fitness to females.

With one breeding season, all females give birth to 1-4 within three weeks.

Weaning occurs within 1-5 months. Both sexes reach maturity at 28-29 months.

Allthough some habitats remain always occupied, in many locations rock hyraxes colonies may dissapear and then reappear according to metapopulation theory.

In some counties e.g. Saudi-Arabia rock hyraxes are hunted for sport, meat and skins.

Rock hyraxes from Plzen Zoo, Czech

How do you recognize hyrax species from one another?

If they are diurnal, they are either rock hyraxes or bush hyraxes. These are quite different form their appearance.

If they are nocturnal, they are tree hyraxes. Tree hyraxes are usually seen in the proximity of trees as they only eat leaves. In West Africa they are D. dorsalis or D. interfluvialis. They can be separated by their calls. Most common tree hyrax is Dendrohyrax arboreus. This species can be found from equator to South Africa. Other tree hyraxes D. validus and Taita tree hyrax sound very different. D. arboreus sounds like halloween sound track. D. validus has simple hac calls and Taita tree hyraxes have strangled thwack as their main contact calls. You can listen to Taita tree hyrax from here

Key reference: Hoeck, H. Bloomer, P. (2013) ´Procavia capensis Rock hyrax (Klipdassie)’. In “Mammals of Africa” Vol 1. London Bloomsbury. pages 166-171

Demartsev, V. et al. (2014) ‘Male hyraxes increase song complexity and duration in the presence of alert individuals’, Behavioral Ecology, 25(6), pp. 1451–1458. doi:10.1093/beheco/aru155.

Butynski, T., Hoeck, H., Koren, L. & de Jong, Y.A. 2015. Procavia capensis. The IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species 2015: e.T41766A21285876.

Koren, L. (2006) Vocalization as an indicator of individual quality in the rock hyrax. PhD-thesis, Tel-Aviv University.

Koren, L. and Geffen, E. (2009) ‘Complex call in male rock hyrax (Procavia capensis): a multi-information distributing channel’, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 63(4), pp. 581–590. doi:10.1007/s00265-008-0693-2.

Oates, J.F. et al. (2021) ‘A new species of tree hyrax (Procaviidae: (Dendrohyrax) from West Africa and the significance of the Niger–Volta interfluvium in mammalian biogeography’, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, p. zlab029. doi:10.1093/zoolinnean/zlab029.

Categories:All posts, Tree hyraxTags: , , ,


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