Chester Zoo, in Upton-by-Chester, Chester, UK, recently welcomed four baby Rock Hyraxes! Born July 20, at the zoo's African Painted Dog Exhibit, the quad of babies were just a few ounces at birth, and they looked like miniature versions of their parents, with eyes and ears open.
Despite their diminutive size, the Rock Hyrax has a remarkable genetic link to the elephant! Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, Tim Rowlands, said: “Rock Hyraxes and elephants share several common features. They have similar toes, teeth and skull structures and Rock Hyraxes also have two large continually growing incisors, which correspond to an elephant’s tusks. And whereas small mammals normally have a short pregnancy period, for the Rock Hyrax it lasts for around seven and a half months (245 days), another sign of their relation to their much larger ancestors.”
Rock Hyraxes are native to Africa, but they can also be found along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Israel, where they are protected by law. As their name suggests, they live in rocky terrain, seeking shelter and protection in rugged outcrops or cliffs. In the wild, they typically live in colonies of about 80 individuals, subdivided into smaller families.
The Rock Hyrax is a forager. Feeding in groups, with one or more posted as a sentry, they prefer a diet of grasses, broad-leaf plants, and an occasional insect or grub. They obtain most of their water from food sources.
Rock Hyrax feet are built for climbing. The bottom of each foot is bare and has a moist, rubbery pad that provides a suction-cup effect to aid in clinging to rocks.
Although, currently not endangered, the sociable Rock Hyrax serves as an important ambassador for species preservation.