5 Jan 2016

The quartet of pups, one male and three female, arrived weighing between just 250g and 290g.

Although similar in appearance to the Guinea pig, rock hyraxes are in fact more closely related to the elephant than any other species on Earth – sometimes referred to as ‘the elephant’s cousin’ as a result of a surprising genetic link.

Small mammals typically go through a short gestation period but the rock hyrax is different, with pregnancies lasting more than seven months – a connection to their larger relatives.

They also share physical similarities with elephants, such as the shape of their feet, skull structure and their continually growing incisors, which are reminiscent of an elephant’s tusks.

Rock hyraxes in the wild live in Africa and along the Arabian Peninsula and, as their name suggests, they frequent rocky terrain, seeking shelter and protection in rugged outcrops or cliffs.

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
  • They have excellent eye sight
  • 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 14 July and are yet to be named
  • When pups are born they look like miniature adults – born with their eyes and ears open and with the same coat