08 14/08/2017

Rock hyrax triplets born at Chester Zoo

Three baby rock hyraxes have made their public debuts at Chester Zoo.

The pocket-sized pups, which are yet to be named or sexed, arrived to mum Daissie and dad Nungu on 21 July weighing just 250g – no heavier than a bar of soap!

They may be short in stature but these tiny animals have a surprising genetic link - they are more closely related to the elephant than any other species on Earth, after evolving from a single common ancestor.

Rock hyraxes’ two large incisor teeth constantly grow like tiny tusks, just like an elephant, while the two species also have similar shaped feet and skull structure.  

Small mammals often experience a short pregnancy period, but rock hyraxes are different, with their pregnancy lasting more than seven months. The species’ young are well developed when born, just like miniature adults.

Rock Hyrax

David White, Team Manager of small mammals at Chester Zoo said: 

Rock hyraxes have helped conservationists learn so much about the evolution of different animals, and how animals can evolve and adapt to the environments where they live – they really are special little creatures.

Hyraxes are known for spending a large majority of their time lying out and basking in the sun, so mum Daissie and dad Nungu have certainly been run off their feet keeping up with these three little ones.

In the wild rock hyraxes are known as ‘rock rabbits’ or ‘Dassies’ and can found in large colonies across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Scientists believe they even have their own form of language, using vocalisations in a particular tone and order to convey meaning.

As their name suggests, they are known to live among rocky terrain, where they used their moist and rubber-like soles, which act like suction cups, to grip and clamber down steep slopes. 

Rock Hyrax

Rock hyrax facts

  • Rock hyraxes live in colonies of two to 26 individuals and to communicate with each other they make 20 different noises. They produce an episode of ‘harsh yips’ which build up to ‘grunts’ to defend their territory
  • 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
  • The zoo’s latest pups were born on July 21 and are yet to sexed or named
  • When pups are born they look like miniature adults – born with their eyes and ears open and with the same furry coat
Hyraxes have a special eyelid (called a nictitating membrane) for sun and dust protection; a bulge in each iris acts as a built-in sun visor.

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