Facts about the Tree & Ground Squirrel – Rock Dassie – Pangolin
Tree Squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi)
Tree squirrels, as the name implies, are arboreal (tree living) animals but will come down to the ground to forage for food. They are largely vegetarian, but like most rodents, will also take insect prey. They eat seeds and nuts from which they derive most of their protein, carbohydrates and fat. Squirrels hoard food during the winter, first biting the seeds or nuts open, licking and rubbing them thus leaving their personal scent as a trail before burying their treasure. This ‘scatter-hoarding’ distributes seeds, not all of which are retrieved. In the spring new sprouts often appear where squirrels have buried their winter food.
Cape Ground Squirrel (Xerus inauris)
The Cape ground squirrel lives in arid regions of southern Africa, including the Kalahari desert. Squirrels live in separate male and female groups, which come together only during the mating season. The female groups consist of around three adult females and their juvenile offspring. The male groups are made up of up to nineteen adult males. Groups live in clusters of burrows with numerous entrances. They use their bushy tails like umbrellas to shade them from the extreme desert heat and also use the tails to confuse and frustrate predators such as snakes.
Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis)
Dassies are the Afrikaans and most commonly name used for a small mammal, Procavia carpensis (Latin) in South Africa. Their Latin names means the first guinea-pig (Procavia) belonging to the cape (carpensis). They are known in english as a Rock Hyrax and got that name from the Hebrew word shaphan that means “the hidden one”. They are also referred to as pelele (Swahili) and Rock rabbit. Dassies are social animals living in colonies of four to sixty individuals. They are grazers and can eat up to 75 different plant species including some poisonous ones.
Pangolin (Manis temminckii)
Pangolins, also known as scaly anteaters, are unique creatures that are covered in hard, plate-like scales. They are insectivorous (feeding on insects) and are mainly nocturnal. Their name, “pangolin”, is derived from the Malay word “pengguling”, which loosely translates to “something that rolls up”. Together, the eight species comprise their very own Order: Pholidota. The scales of these critters comprise about 20% of their total body weight. This beautiful creature is now so endangered that it is under the protection of international law. Looking into its gentle eyes, one can only hope that we are not too late.