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Press Releases 31/07/2014

‘Little brothers of the elephant’ born at Chester Zoo

Four baby rock hyraxes which have been born at Chester Zoo may look like Guinea pigs – but in fact they are one of the closest living relatives of the elephant.

Rock Hyrax at Chester Zoo

The tiny youngsters weighed just a few ounces when they arrived on July 20.

But despite their slight appearance, the species has a remarkable genetic link to the elephant.

Curator of mammals, 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 can also be found along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula and in 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.

The new arrivals can be seen with their parents in their exhibit at the zoo, which is part of its African painted dogs’ trail.

Rock hyrax at Chester Zoo

Rock hyrax facts

  • Chester Zoo’s rock hyrax mum is five-years-old, born on 8/7/2009
  • Dad, Nungu, is four years and 11 months old, born on 18/8/2009
  • Hyraxes don’t need much water because they get most of it from their food
  • Hyrax feet are built for rock climbing - the bottom of each foot is bare and has a moist, rubbery pad that provides a suction-cup effect to help the hyrax cling to rocks without slipping
  • Rock hyraxes have excellent eye sight
  • When the pups are born they look like miniature adults – born with their eyes and ears open and with the same coat
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