Bush baby, also called galago, is a small nocturnal primate that spends most of its life in wooded habitats. Its distinctive features are its big saucer eyes, collapsible ears that rotate independently like radars, and an extremely long tail.
Bush babies, aka nagapies or night monkeys, have a piercing cry distinctive to closely related species through the African night. On guided night nature walks in western Uganda’s forests, tourists locate this tiny primate by following the cry and shining a torch into the tree canopy to pick out its large reflective eyes.
Bush babies are master jumpers, using powerful legs and extremely long tails to leap great distances, which allows the primates to move quickly through the forest canopy or snatch flying insects.
At least 20 species of bush babies are known, five are found in Uganda, and the lesser bush baby (Galago senegalensis) is the most common.
Lesser bush babies are insectivorous creatures, only 17cm long, excluding their tail, preferring woodlands as opposed to actual forest, and it has been seen in all of Uganda’s savanna reserves.
The eastern needle-clawed bush baby (G. inustus), Thomas’s bush baby (G. thomasi) and dwarf bush baby (G. den’tidovii) have been seen in Kibale and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The dwarf bush baby is also found in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Bush babies are omnivores, feeding on fruits, insects, and gum that oozes out of certain tree species. Some larger galagos will even hunt small animals, such as frogs and birds.
Most of these night monkey species look so similar that you may not tell them apart by sight alone. Instead, scientists often use the primate’s distinct calls that sound like a crying newborn to differentiate between closely related species.
Some galagos prefer to nest in tree hollows, while others hide out in the crooks of trees or vegetation tangles during the day or reuse old birds’ nests and abandoned beehives for shelter.
Family groups of two to seven bush babies will frequently spend the day nestled together in their hollow but split up at night to look for food.
Bush baby predators include genets, mongooses, jackals, owls, and snakes. They are sometimes hunted by other primates like the grey-cheeked mangabeys and blue monkeys. There’s also evidence that chimpanzees use spears to kill and extract bush babies from their burrows.