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Rock Hyrax

CONSERVATION STATUS : LEAST CONCERN
COMMON EXTINCT
Classification:

Other Common Names: dassie, conie, rock rabbit
Order: Hyracoidea
Genus & Species: Procavia capensis
Family: Procaviidae

Status:

Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Range:

Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of NE Africa; portions of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and Turkey; isolated mountains in Algeria and Libya.

Habitat:

Rocky or scrub-covered areas; dry savanna to dense rainforest.

Activity:

Diurnal.

Size:

Body 12 to 23 inches.  Weight 6.5 to 11 pounds.

Longevity:

9 to 12 years.

Diet:

Mostly grass but also new shoots, berries, figs, roots, fruits and sometimes invertebrates. In order to avoid confrontations with predators, rock hyraxes only graze one to two hours a day using their large mouths to eat quickly.

Description:

Small, solidly built.  Shape resembles a guinea pig with stout legs and a very short tail.  Grey/brown coat usually with paler underside.  Fur is generally short but with a few longer guard hairs that are very sensitive to touch.  Large dorsal scent gland surrounded by lighter colored oval of erectile hair that may be used for aggressive and territorial displays.  Hyraxes have black noses, rounded ears and tusk-like incisors. Their eyes are round and dark in color with a paler colored strip above each eye.

Reproduction:

Gestation: 7 to 8 months.

Offspring: 2 to 3.

Parental Care: Young are born during the rainy season and are well developed at birth.  They are covered in fur and their eyes are fully open.  Young begin to eat solid food at 2 weeks and are weaned by 10 weeks.  Young males will leave to find their own territory at 16 to 24 months of age, but females stay with the group.

Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:

Rock hyraxes live in crevices and cavities in rock outcroppings. They do not burrow, but will inhabit burrows of other animals including those of aardvarks and meerkats.  They are good climbers and jumpers.  On the soles of their feet they have large, soft pads, which are kept moist by secretions. These pads help them grip onto and climb up the rocky surfaces of their habitat.

Hyraxes live in large herds of up to 40 individuals with each herd split into smaller groups of 3 to 7 related adult females. 1 adult male will defend a territory that will encompass the range of several groups, but females are not territorial and their ranges will overlap.

Rock Hyraxes spend most of their time resting either alone or in huddles. They have a difficult time maintaining their body temperature, so they use the heat from the sun to regulate their body temperature. Rock hyraxes will bask together in the morning sunlight to warm their bodies.  On exceptionally hot days, they will retreat to their shelters to avoid the midday heat. At night, they head to their shelters for protection from predators, cold temperatures and the wind.

Comments:

Hyraxes are survivors of an ancient group of pre-ungulates, and they share a common ancestor with elephants, aardvarks, and manatees.  Sometimes said to be the closest living relative of the elephant, hyraxes and elephants share the following characteristics:  upper incisors modified as tusks, cheek teeth with transverse ridges for grinding vegetation, front and rear toes tipped with rounded nails, and 2 teats located between the front legs (lacking in some tree hyraxes).

When populations are large, hyraxes can move into areas of human habitation where they may become pests by living in culverts and stone walls.  Some hyraxes produce large, communal piles of dung and urine that eventually congeal into a sticky mass. This substance (hyraceum) has been used by humans as a medicine for treating epilepsy, convulsions, and “women’s disorders.”