Three new baby Rock Hyraxes are receiving visitors at the Virginia Zoo's Africa - Okavango Delta exhibit. Born July 5, the little mammals can now be seen with the four adults in the Hyrax habitat –but visitors may have to work to find them.
"Like their parents, the babies like to wedge themselves into crevices, so look for them in between the rocks," said Greg Bockheim, the Virginia Zoo's executive director. He added that the adults often sit high on the rocks and freeze in place to avoid being seen, and that the babies will develop similar behavior as they grow.
Hyraxes are small, heavy-set mammals native to Africa and the Middle East. Their feet have rubbery pads with numerous sweat glands, which together form a kind of suction cup that helps their grip when climbing steep, rocky surfaces.
Adult Hyraxes range between 1 and 2 feet in length and weigh from 5 to 9 pounds. Living in small family groups dominated by a single adult male, Hyraxes eat a variety of plants, but mainly feed on grasses. Their efficient kidneys retain water, helping them survive in arid climates.
Hyraxes' ancestors also gave rise to elephants and manatees, and modern Hyraxes have many features in common with elephants, including excellent hearing, sensitive pads on their feet and good memory. Their upper incisors are enlarged, forming continuously growing tusks.