Lesser bushbaby

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Suborder: Strepsirrhini
Infraorder: Lorisiformes
Family: Galagidae
Genus: Galago
Species: G. alleni, G. cameronensis, G. demidoff, G. gabonensis, G. gallarum, G. granti, G. matschiei, G. moholi, G. nyasae, G. orinus, G. rondoensis, G. senegalensis, G. thomasi, G. zanzibaricus

Other Names: galago; G. alleni: Galagoides alleni, Sciurocheirus alleni; Allen’s bushbaby, Allen’s galago, Allen’s squirrel galago, Bioko Allen’s bushbaby; galago Alleni (Dutch); galago d’Allen (French); gálago de Allen (Spanish); Allens galago, glasögongalago (Swedish); G. cameronensis: Cross River bushbaby, Cross River squirrel galago; G. demidoff: Galagoides demidoff, Galagoides demidovii; Demidoff’s dwarf galago, Demidoff’s galago, dwarf bushbaby, dwarf galago; galago de Demidoff (French); gálago enano (Spanish); pygmégalago, thomasgalago (Swedish); G. gabonensis: Sciurocheirus gabonensis; Gabon bushbaby, Gabon squirrel galago; G. gallarum: Galago senegalensis gallarum; Somali bushbaby, Somali galago, Somali lesser galago; gálago etíope (Spanish); Somaligalago (Swedish); G. granti: Galagoides granti; Grant’s dwarf galago, Grant’s lesser galago, Mozambique galago, Mozambique lesser galago; G. matschiei: Euoticus inustus, Galago inustus; dusky bushbaby, eastern needle-clawed bushbaby, eastern needle-clawed galago, lesser needle-clawed galago, Matschie’s galago, spectacled galago, spectacled lesser galago; galago du Congo (French); östlig klogalago (Swedish); G. moholi: Galago senegalensis moholi; lesser bushbaby, Mohol galago, Moholi bushbaby, South African galago, South African lesser galago, southern lesser galago; Moholigalago (Swedish); G. orinus: Galagoides orinus; Amani dwarf galago, mountain dwarf galago, Uluguru bushbaby; G. rondoensis: Galagoides rondoensis; Rondo dwarf galago, Rondo galago; Rondogalago (Swedish); G. senegalensis: lesser bushbaby, lesser galago, Senegal bushbaby, Senegal galago, Senegal lesser galago; galago du Sénégal (French); gálago de Senegal (Spanish); bushbaby, dvärggalago, Senegalgalago (Swedish); G. thomasi: Galagoides thomasi; Thomas’s dwarf galago, Thomas’s galago; G. zanzibaricus: Galago senegalensis zanzibaricus, Galagoides cocos, Galagoides udzungwensis, Galagoides zanzibaricus; Matundu dwarf galago, Zanzibar bushbaby, Zanzibar galago; Gálago de Zanzibar (Spanish); Grants galago, Zanzibargalago (Swedish).

Conservation status: please search the IUCN Red List.

Life span: mid-teens
Total population: Unknown
Regions: sub-Saharan Africa
Gestation: 111 to 142 days
Height: 12.9 to 19.9 cm (M & F)
Weight: 70 to 314 g (M & F)

Groves (2005) lists 14 species in the genus Galago. However, the taxonomy of the genus is frequently disputed and revised in the literature. Often, Lorisiform species are difficult to differentiate from one another based on morphology alone partially due to convergent evolution, and they themselves recognize their conspecifics by more subtle means (Nekaris & Bearder 2007). As a result, taxonomies of the species within Galago, or even within the Galagidae are often based on a number of lines of evidence, including studies of vocalizations, genetics and morphology and older citations will use outdated taxonomies which conflate species now split out of one older one (see Nekaris & Bearder 2007 for a review). Further, some researchers include the smaller species of bushbabies under a different genus Galagoides, and the squirrel bushbabies under the genus Sciurocheirus, but here, Groves (2005) is followed. Thus, when the term bushbaby is used, it is meant in reference to members of the genus Galago as defined above.


Lesser bushbaby

In general, bushbabies are small, woolly, long-tailed primates with mobile, oversized naked ears (Kingdon 2004). Different species of bushbaby are sometimes indistinguishable even if compared side by side and their diversity is not entirely explainable anatomically (Perkin 2001; Bearder 2007). In addition, even within individual species and populations, there is often significant variation in coloration and body size, as is the case with G. alleni (Ambrose 2003; Kingdon 2004). As a result, it is often difficult to describe the pelage color of species individually and in some cases attempts at identifying morphological characteristics distinguishing them have focused on other less apparent traits, such as penis, hand and hair morphology as well as relative body size (Anderson 1999; 2001; Bearder 2007; Perkin 2007; Vinyard 2007). The pelage of the bushbabies varies over the parts of the body as well as between species. In general, pelage coloration can range anywhere on a spectrum between black, brown, and grey to white, ranging from brown to yellowish, with greenish, reddish, and orangeish tints and combinations of those colors in various schemes (Nash et al. 1989; Honess & Bearder 1996; Kingdon 2004). However, the ventral surfaces are usually lighter than the rest of the body (Ankel-Simons 2007). Some species have a nasal strip while others have dark rings around the eyes (Nash et al. 1989; Kingdon 2004). The ears can move independently of one another and are, proportionate to body size, the largest among the primates. Bushbabies possess a toilet-claw and have a moist nose (Ankel-Simons 2007).

Bushbabies are small primates ranging in average mass by species from 70 to 314 g (2.5 to 11.1 oz), with G. alleni the heaviest on average with G. demidoff and G. rondoensis the lightest on average (Nash et al. 1989; Olson & Nash 2002-2003; Butynski et al. 2006; Perkin 2007). Head and body length averages by species range from 19.9 cm to 12.9 cm (7.8 to 5.1 in), again with G. alleni the largest and G. demidoff and G. rondoensis the smallest (Nash et al. 1989; Olson & Nash 2002-2003; Butynski et al. 2006; Mittermeier et al. 2007). The tail is longer than the body (Olson & Nash 2002-2003).

Lesser bushbaby

In the austral spring, G. moholi exhibits a heavy molt (Bearder & Martin 1980).

In the wild, quantitative data on bushbaby locomotion is limited. However, based on this limited sample, bushbabies (G. moholi) primarily move through their environment by quadrupedal movement (19.8%), leaping (54.1 %), hopping (2.9%) and climbing (16.8%) (Crompton 1983). G. thomasi moves through quadrupedalism (35%), climbing (13%), vertical clinging and leaping (14%), leaping (23%) and bipedal hopping (15%). G. matschiei moves through quadrupedalism (13%), climbing (13%), vertical clinging and leaping (19%), leaping (31%) and bipedal hopping (25%) (Off & Gebo 2005). The use of different types of locomotion is variable, with some species moving almost exclusively through leaping between vertical supports (G. alleni), while others mostly quadrupedally run and jump (G. zanzibaricus) (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Courtenay & Bearder 1989; Harcourt & Bearder 1989). Some species land hindfeet-first, while others are unable to do so and may land on their front limbs or on all fours (Harcourt & Nash 1986; Nash et al. 1989; Kingdon 2004). Leaps can cover significant distances, up to and sometimes greater than 2.5 m (8.2 ft) (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Butynski & de Jong 2004). When leaping directly between trees is impossible due to the distance between them, some bushbabies may hop terrestrially between supports (Butynski & de Jong 2004).

In captivity, bushbabies can live into their mid-teens (Harvey & Clutton-Brock 1985; Ross 1988).


Galago alleni | Galago cameronensis | Galago demidoff | Galago gabonensis | Galago gallarum | Galago granti | Galago matschiei | Galago moholi | Galago nyasae | Galago orinus | Galago rondoensis | Galago senegalensis | Galago thomasi | Galago zanzibaricus

In general, bushbabies are found over most of sub-saharan Africa, ranging from Senegal east to Somalia and down to South Africa (excepting its southern extreme) and are present in almost every country in between (Nekaris & Bearder 2007; http://www.cites.org). However, there are great differences in their extent and distribution by species. G. demidoff and G. senegalensis have among the largest distributions, each being found in over ten nations, while other species are only found in a single country, such as G. orinus and G. rondoensis which are both only found in Tanzania (http://www.cites.org; Mittermeier et al. 2007). Further, there is significant range overlap among the bushbabies and in some cases, several species are sympatric. (Nekaris & Bearder 2007). Generally speaking, G. alleni, G. cameronensis, G. gabonensis, and G. matschiei are found roughly in central Africa, while G. gallarum, G. granti, G. nyasae, G. orinus, G. rondoensis, and G. zanzibaricus are found in the eastern parts of the continent. G. moholi is found in central and southern Africa, while G. demidoff, G. senegalensis, and G. thomasi are more widespread (http://www.cites.org).


Partially owing to the wide distribution of the genus as a whole, bushbabies are found in a great variety of habitats and ecological zones which are often very different from one-another and vary widely in climate. Bushbabies may be found in deciduous bushland and thicket, evergreen, semi-deciduous, and deciduous forest, open bush, savannah, riverine bush, forest fringe, open woodland, steep-sided valleys, rainforest, lowland forest, mixed woodland, forest edge, semi-arid areas, cloud forest, coastal forests, woodland, thickets, groundwater forest, submontane and montane forest, gallery forest, littoral forest, hilly woodlands, species-rich woodlands and degraded and secondary forests including mosaics of mixed agriculture (Crompton 1984; Nash et al. 1989; Ambrose 2003; Bearder et al. 2003; Butynski & de Jong 2004; Butynski et al. 2006; see Bearder et al. 2003 for a partial review of habitat preferences by species). Bushbabies are present from the coast up to montane forests at an altitude of around 2000 m (6561.8 ft) with some reports placing G. matschiei at 2800 m (9186.4 ft) above sea level (Butynski et al. 1998; Ambrose 2003; Ambrose 2006; Butynski et al. 2006). G. gallarum can be found in the driest, thorniest habitats of not only the bushbabies, but of any other primate (Nash et al. 1989; Butynski & de Jong 2004). G. orinus is found only in montane forests (Butynski et al. 1998).

Like other aspects of bushbaby ecology, strata preference is variable between species (see Bearder et al. 2003 for a review of strata preference by species). However in general, G. senegalensis, G. gallarum, G. moholi, and G. matschiei tend to utilize all strata within their habitat, while the other members of the genus prefer to use a single stratum (Bearder et al. 2003). Within its rainforest habitat, G. alleni is found predominantly below 5 m (16.4 ft) and prefer the open understory to move through the forest (Charles-Dominique 1977b; Ambrose 2003). For resting and the parking of young individuals, however they prefer dense lianas (Ambrose 2003). G. gallarum spends much of its active cycle between 1-7 m (3.3-23.0 ft) above the ground, while G. thomasi prefers levels of the canopy above 10 m (32.8 ft) above ground level (Ambrose & Perkin 1999-2000; Butynski 2004).

In some habitat areas the climate varies seasonally (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Crompton 1984). At one study site of G. alleni in Gabon, annual rainfall averages 170 cm (66.9 in), most of which falls over only a third of the year, split between two rainy seasons between September-December and March-June, punctuated by dry seasons. Temperatures on an annual basis range from a maximum around 30°C (86°F)to a minimum of around 20°C (68 °F) (Charles-Dominique 1977a). Elsewhere, at a study site of G. senegalensis in South Africa, annual rainfall averaged just 61 cm, with temperatures ranging from -5 to 38°C (23 to 100.4 °F) over the course of the year, varying by as much as 25°C (45°F) in a single day (Crompton 1984). The effect of the winter cold in more extreme habitats in South Africa can sometimes be severe, causing seasonal weight loss due to food scarcity in addition to frostbite damage to tails (Bearder & Martin 1980).


While the proportions in the diet vary across not only species but seasons as well, in general, omnivorous bushbabies predominately consume roughly three types of food in various proportions and combinations; animal prey, fruit, and gum (Charles-Dominique 1974; Molez 1976; Charles-Dominique 1977a; Charles-Dominique & Bearder 1979; Bearder & Martin 1980; Harcourt 1986b; Harcourt & Nash 1986; Nash & Whitten 1989; Nash et al. 1989; Gonzalez-Kirchner 1995; Ambrose 2003; Butynski & de Jong 2004). Across the species for which long-term data are available, bushbabies consume animal foods, especially invertebrates (25-70%), fruit (19-73%), gum (10-48%) and nectar (0-2%) (data compiled by Nekaris & Bearder 2007). Animal food items that are consumed consist mostly of invertebrates, especially arthropods, but frogs are also consumed by some species (G. alleni) and some authors suggest that bushbabies might also consume other prey, including eggs, chicks, and adult small birds as well as newborn small mammals (Charles-Dominique & Bearder 1979; Crompton 1984; Harcourt & Nash 1986; Gonzalez-Kirchner 1995; Ambrose 2003; Butynski & de Jong 2004). Not all species of bushbaby consume fruit, and some consume exclusively gums (especially from Acacia trees) and arthropods, especially during drier times of the year when fruit may not be available (Bearder & Martin 1980; Crompton 1984; Nash & Whitten 1989; Butynski & de Jong 2004). It is suggested that gums are an important resource for bushbabies as they are not seasonally limited in their availability and in the case of G. senegalensis, gum is a staple during the winter (Bearder & Martin 1980; Crompton 1984). However, some populations eat only fruit and invertebrates, particularly in areas where exudates are not available (Harcourt & Nash 1986). In G. alleni, when compared between primary and secondary habitats, the species eats proportionally more insect prey and less fruit in degraded forests as opposed to primary forests (Molez 1976). Ants are caught by G. alleni by waiting by a trail of the insects and grabbing them with their hands while other bushbabies may pounce on larger invertebrate prey from above (Ambrose 2003; Butynski & de Jong 2004). When pregnant or lactating, more fruit is consumed by female G. alleni (Molez 1976).

Lesser bushbaby

Bushbabies are nocturnal and spend their nights resting (4.5%), traveling (25%), foraging (63.9%), engaged in social activities (5.9-18%) and in other activities (0.6%) (G. moholi) (Doyle & Bearder 1977; Nekaris & Bearder 2007). G. gallarum and G. moholi spend the majority of their time foraging for food (although traveling predominated in at least one captive study of G. moholi) (Bearder & Martin 1980; Crompton 1984; Butynski & de Jong 2004). Activity starts right around sunset and ends around dawn with the most active periods are right after dark and directly preceding dawn (Molez 1976; Doyle & Bearder 1977).

The nocturnal activity period of G. moholi has been described sequentially as toilet activities after waking, movement to a food tree, feeding, movement and foraging, rest, movement and foraging, feeding or rest, movement to a feeding tree, and toilet activities at the end of the day (Doyle & Bearder 1977). Before commencing its nightly activity, G. alleni and G. moholi will extensively groom themselves before exiting the sleeping site (Doyle 1974; Charles-Dominique 1977a). Further, the activity period is punctuated by periods of rest during which bushbabies do not sleep (Charles-Dominique 1977a).

In the more extreme environments inhabited by bushbabies, such as certain parts of South Africa where the winter cold can be profound, bushbabies will increase feeding time and shorten time spent in other activities to help cope with the limited availability of food (Bearder & Martin 1980). At these times of the year, bushbabies may curtail their nightly activities and return to their nests very early to huddle (Bearder & Martin 1980).

Home range is variable among the species of bushbaby and varies from 0.005 and 0.5 km² (0.002 and 0.2 mi²) with females generally ranging over somewhat of a smaller area than their male counterparts (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Doyle & Bearder 1977; Bearder & Martin 1980; Nash 1984; Harcourt & Nash 1986; Harcourt & Bearder 1989; Pimley et al. 2005; Nekaris & Bearder 2007). Among individuals there are overlapping home ranges (Doyle & Bearder 1977; Bearder & Martin 1980; Nash 1984; Harcourt & Nash 1986; Pullen et al. 2000; Nekaris & Bearder 2007). Day range averages 2.1 km (1.3 mi) per night in G. senegalensis and varies between approximately 1.5 and 2.0 km (0.9 and 1.2 mi) per night in G. zanzibaricus (Doyle & Bearder 1977; Harcourt & Nash 1986). A greater availability of moonlight results in greater movement over the course of the night (Nash 1986). During the mating seasons, G. moholi males increase their home range (Pullen et al. 2000).

The different species of bushbaby vary in their preferences of sleeping site types (see Bearder et al. 2003 for a summary). G. zanzibaricus, G. granti, G. matschiei, G. alleni and G. gabonensis prefer to sleep in tree hollows while G. demidoff either builds fully enclosed leaf-nests or sleeps in vegetation tangles (Struhsaker 1970; Charles-Dominique 1977a; 1977b; Bearder et al. 2003). G. orinus also predominantly sleeps in nests it has constructed (Bearder et al. 2003). G. senegalensis sleeps in dense vegetation, may build nests, in forks and branches in trees, may use old bird’s nests and unoccupied beehives, and will also sometimes use tree hollows (Haddow & Ellice 1964; Doyle & Bearder 1977). Old nests are reused, even if they were not built by the bushbaby in question (Bearder et al. 2003). G. senegalensis and G. moholi can use more than a dozen different sleeping sites within its home range during a year (Bearder & Doyle 1974a). G. gallarum has not been seen to construct nests, but will sleep on branches and in dense vegetation (Butynski & de Jong 2004). G. thomasi will sometimes build sleeping nests inside of unoccupied chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) nests (Llorente et al. 2003). Some species are generalists and will sleep wherever is suitable and may build nests as well (Bearder et al. 2003).

Potential predators of bushbabies include mongooses, genets (Genetta spp.), jackals (Canis sp.), felids (Felis sp.), domestic cats and dogs, raptors (especially owls), and snakes (Bearder et al. 2002; Mzilikazi et al. 2006). In addition, several primates, including Grey-cheeked mangabeys (Lophocebus albigena), blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis) and chimpanzees prey on bushbabies, with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) sometimes fashioning tools to help do so (Butynski 1982; Poulsen & Clark 2001; Byrne 2007; Pruetz & Bertolani 2007).

The ranges of different bushbaby species overlap often with up to four species of bushbaby sympatric at any given location. Lesser bushbabies may also be sympatric with two species of potto (Perodicticus sp.) and/or two species of greater bushbabies (Otolemur sp.) (Nekaris & Bearder 2007). In Africa, up to 8 sympatric species of nocturnal primate, including bushbabies, can be found at a specific location (Bearder 1999).

Content last modified: December 8, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Leanne Nash.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 December 8. Primate Factsheets: Lesser bushbaby (Galago) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/lesser_bushbaby/taxon>. Accessed 2020 July 21.


he social fabric of the lives of bushbabies is as varied as their habitats and for many species, incompletely known. However, the social systems of the bushbabies are best described as non-gregarious (Pullen et al. 2000). For example, G. moholi spends 70% of its activity period solitary (Bearder & Doyle 1974b; Doyle & Bearder 1977). This is not a rule however, with some populations of G. alleni being found about half of the time in association with one or several conspecifics while other populations of the same species do not show this pattern (Ambrose 2003).

Two lesser bushbabies on a branch

The lives of bushbabies are typified by a dichotomy of daily activity; divided between solitary evening and nighttime activities alternating with morning and daytime social aggregation, especially at the sleeping site (Charles-Dominique 1972; Bearder & Martin 1980; Harcourt & Nash 1986). Individuals are not often seen together at night (Harcourt & Nash 1986). Because some of the activity period is spent solitary, social groupings are perhaps best quantified through sleeping group size, which can vary between solitary sleeping up to ten individuals per sleeping site (data compiled from the literature by Bearder 1987 & Bearder et al. 2003). Only G. demidoff does not sometimes sleep alone and has a minimum sleeping group size of two individuals (Bearder et al. 2003). Home ranges in G. zanzibaricus males show only slight overlap, as is mostly the case in females of comparable age; however females sometimes share ranges with other females who are likely kin (Nash 1984; Harcourt & Nash 1986). Males will sleep with each individual whose range overlaps his, mostly one or several adult females and immatures per night (Harcourt & Nash 1986). Adult male G. moholi never sleep together (Bearder & Martin 1980). The overlap in male ranges might be explained by low sample size, tolerance of smaller emigrating males, or the process of replacement of a resident male. Adults of G. zanzibaricus likely defend their ranges (Harcourt & Nash 1986). G. moholi females range structure is related to their age, with like-aged females showing little range overlap while those with somewhat larger age differences may overlap extensively (Bearder & Martin 1980). In both G. alleni and G. demidovii, female ranges vary in their overlap with one another and the ranges of males usually overlap at least one female range. G. alleni male home ranges are vast and may overlap the home ranges of more than 8 different females. Male ranges either do not overlap or overlap to an insignificant degree. Small areas of male overlap are sometimes deemed common areas, and may be shared by several males in G. demidovii and G. alleni (Charles-Dominique 1977a).

In G. moholi, males exhibit a linear, age-based dominance hierarchy, with only the highest ranking males defending their territories. Such individuals are usually some of the largest present in a given area and initiate agonistic contact, often resulting in the displacement of subordinate males. Regardless of rank, adult males are not tolerant of one another (Bearder & Martin 1980). There are two classes of mature G. moholi males, dominant heavier males who interact with females more often and submissive, nonterritorial adult males who weigh less and interact with females less (Bearder 1987). It is suggested that there are four classes of adult male in G. demidovii, each with particularities of home range extent and overlap relating to contacts with both female home ranges as well as with other adult males (Charles-Dominique 1977a). To show submission, individuals descend to ground-level (Bearder & Doyle 1974b; Bearder & Martin 1980). Adult male G. alleni are extremely intolerant of one another and are in pronounced competition with other males (Charles-Dominique 1977).

Female G. moholi exhibit more ambiguous social relationships, although agonistic territorial behavior is sometimes seen at the borders of home ranges (Bearder & Martin 1980). Affiliative interactions in G. senegalensis consist of urine-washing, grappling, chasing, play and grooming (Bearder & Doyle 1974b).

Females in G. zanzibaricus tend not to emigrate from their natal range while males do, usually at puberty (Nash 1984; Harcourt & Nash 1986). In some species, young pubescent males may spend time in a so-called “vagabond” phase of life, in which they are nomadic and do not spend much time in a given area (Charles-Dominique 1977a). Emigration in G. moholi is rigidly defined, with the pre-reproductive pubescent male traveling either unidirectionally either east or west over several nights, ending up several kilometers from the natal range (Bearder 1987).

In captivity, aggression is most common between members of the same sex while affinitive behaviors are mostly seen between the sexes in G. senegalensis (Nash & Flinn 1978). In the wild, confrontations are usually avoided, but rare violence can result in serious injury and/or the displacement of a formerly dominant male by a vagabond male (Charles-Dominique 1977a).

When G. moholi encounters a conspecific they will greet each other with nose-to-nose contact and smelling, which may be followed by grooming or agonistic behavior, especially when the individuals are unfamiliar with one another (Doyle 1974).


The mating system of bushbabies (G. moholi) is best described as dispersed and not strictly polygynous. Certain males have a better chance of mating success than others but females may still mate with more than one male (Pullen et al. 2000). Female bushbabies exhibit estrus swelling of the sex skin and the vagina is closed at all other times other than estrus (Nash 1983; Zimmermann 1989; Lipschitz et al. 2001). Estrus and the mating period lasts 1-3 days with some evidence from the wild suggesting that females do not all come into estrus at the same time (Gucwinska & Gucwinski 1968; Doyle et al. 1971; Pullen et al. 2000). G. moholi copulations in the wild last, on average, 9 minutes, but can range from 2 to 53 minutes. Copulation is often serial, with 2-5 prolonged mounts punctuated with rest and grooming (Pullen et al. 2000). Copulations between captive G. senegalensis are similarly prolonged (LT Nash, per. comm.).

Lesser bushbaby

In both the wild and captivity, females may mate with more than one male during a single estrus (Gucwinska & Gucwinski 1968; Pullen et al. 2000). In G. moholi, larger males have better mating success (Pullen et al. 2000). The copulation posture of bushbabies is dorso-ventral, with the male grasping the heels of the female from behind (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Lipschitz 1996b). G. demidovii copulates while suspended from a branch, while other species do not practice suspensory copulation (Charles-Dominique 1977a). The typical mating sequence in captivity of G. moholi consists of the male approaching the female, chasing her, grabbing her and mounting (Lipschitz 1996a). Nose-to-nose touching and genital sniffing may also precede copulation (Lipschitz 1996b). In the wild, all matings in this species are initiated by very persistent males and females are generally averse to their mating attempts (Pullen et al. 2000). In captivity however, females sometimes approach present her hindquarters to a male during behavioral estrus (Lipschitz 1996b).

Several species of bushbaby have two mating and birth seasons per year in the wild, including G. senegalensis, G. zanzibaricus and G. moholi, while other bushbabies of comparable size (G. gallarum) likely follow this pattern as well (Haddow & Ellice 1964; Butler 1967; Harcourt 1986a; Pullen et al. 2000; Butynski & de Jong 2004). Individual females in some species are capable of breeding twice in the same year (Harcourt 1986a; Bearder et al. 2003). Just prior to and during mating seasons, the weight of males and the volume of their testes increases (Pullen et al. 2000).

Among the bushbabies, gestation lengths can range from around 111 days to around 142 with smaller species generally having shorter gestation lengths (Gucwinska & Gucwinski 1968; Doyle et al. 1971; Bearder & Doyle 1974a; Charles-Dominique 1977a; Izard & Simons 1986; Lipschitz 1996a; Izard & Nash 1988; Nash et al. 1989; Zimmermann 1989; Nekaris & Bearder 2007). The average ovarian cycle in captive G. moholi is 38.5 days (Lipschitz 1996b). Sexual maturity is reached across bushbaby species with available data between 8 and 18 months of age (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Izard & Nash 1988; Nash 1993; data compiled by Nekaris & Bearder 2007).

Per pregnancy in most bushbaby species, usually one infant is born, with the possibility of twins and extremely rarely, triplets (Butler 1967; Doyle et al. 1971; Riordan 1971; Nash 1983; Harcourt 1986a; Izard & Simons 1986; Nash et al. 1989; Zimmermann 1989; Bearder et al. 2003). There are several species that are exceptions however. One is G. moholi, which has higher rates of twinning than most other bushbabies (Izard & Simons 1986; Izard & Nash 1988; Nash et al. 1989; Bearder et al. 2003). Bushbaby mothers can give birth to up to 4 infants per year (G. moholi) (Bearder et al. 2003). Estrus is sometimes seen for several days directly following birth and conceptions are possible during this postpartum estrus (Doyle et al. 1969; Zimmermann 1989; Nash 2003).


As the birth of the infant nears, G. zanzibaricus females start sleeping on their own and isolate themselves whereas before they sleep with conspecifics (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Harcourt 1986a). Births occur in nests or the hollows of trees (Bearder 1987). Pooled, multi-species data give the birth weight at about 5 to 24 g (0.2 to 0.8 oz) (Gucwinska & Gucwinski 1968; Doyle et al. 1971; Izard & Nash 1988; data compiled by Nekaris & Bearder 2007 and Zimmermann 1989 for older data). The eyes are open at birth and the pelage is ubiquitously grey and meager (Gucwinska & Gucwinski 1968; Charles-Dominique 1977a; Doyle 1979; Zimmermann 1989). Thick fur comes in between two and three weeks old (Charles-Dominique 1977a).

Lesser bushbabies on a branch

In captivity (G. moholi), at one day old, infants are capable of clinging to a branch and within the first several days of life, can walk quadrupedally. By two weeks of age, infants can quadrupedally run (Doyle 1979). Infants start following their mothers about between 4 and 6 weeks old (Doyle & Bearder 1977). Play begins very early, within the first week of age (Doyle 1979). Among juvenile G. senegalensis, young males play more often than females (Nash 1993).

While the mothers are engaging in other activities, such as foraging nearby, juveniles are parked, usually in tree forks or tangles, motionlessly hiding from potential threats (Doyle 1974; Charles-Dominique 1977a; Harcourt 1986a; Bearder 1987; Ambrose 2003). They sometimes remain parked for prolonged periods of time, up to three hours, but if the parking is prolonged, the mother will occasionally visit (Doyle 1974; Doyle & Bearder 1977). If directly disturbed or seemingly forgotten, the infant may emit a distress call and the mother comes running (Doyle et al. 1969; Charles-Dominique 1977a).

In G. senegalensis, up until 12 weeks of age in captivity, adult-type vocalizations are not heard, with infants instead producing characteristic “zek” calls (Zimmermann 1989). G. moholi infants utter three distinct types of distress vocalization which are given in increasing situations of distress to which the mother responds by coming to the infants and grooming them (Mascagni & Doyle 1993). In situations of danger, the mother will carry the infant away in her mouth (Charles-Dominique 1977a). In captivity, infants first emerge from their nest box at ten to 14 days of age, and in the wild starting between 3 and 7 days of age, the mother carries the infant out of the nest with her and starts parking it (Gucwinska & Gucwinski 1968; Doyle et al. 1969; Charles-Dominique 1977a). In the wild, independent movement and exploration begins about 2-3 weeks old (Charles-Dominique 1977a). Consumption of solid foods commences at one month of age, when infants start stealing food from the mouths of their mothers (Charles-Dominique 1977a). In the wild, juveniles usually forage alone (Bearder 1987).

The typical maternal infant carrying posture is in the mouth, often by the nape (Gucwinska & Gucwinski 1968; Doyle et al. 1969; Ward & Scott 1970; Doyle & Bearder 1977; Doyle 1979; Harcourt 1986a; Ambrose 2003; Bearder 2003; Nash 2003). Carrying with the infant clinging to the fur of the mother is rare, but has been observed in G. gallarum (Butynski & de Jong 2004). In captivity, all sexes and ages are patient with juveniles, and sometimes play, groom, and show interest towards them (Bearder & Doyle 1972). In semi-natural captive conditions, grooming frequencies between mother and offspring do not change as the infant ages, persisting until full adult separation from the mother (Doyle et al. 1969).

In captivity, both G. moholi and G. senegalensis females lactate for an average of around 100 days after the birth of their infant with weaning at 10-14 weeks of age (Doyle 1979; Izard 1987; Zimmermann 1989). However, wild G. demidoff weans its young earlier, at around 45 days old (Charles-Dominique 1977a). Females sometimes nurse infants not belonging to them and there are not profound differences in contact and nursing between sexes of infants (Nash 2003). By ten months of age, males have reached puberty and emigrate and also around this time, courting of females starts (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Bearder 1987). Females in G. moholi start showing territorial behaviors around 200 days old (Bearder 1987).


The vocalizations of bushbabies have been roughly divided into discrete types by function. These include social cohesion and spacing calls (social contact calls), agonistic calls (threat and distress calls), and attention and alarm calls (Charles-Dominique 1977a; Zimmermann et al. 1988). Among G. moholi and G. senegalensis, there appear to be 14 types of call in common between the two species (Zimmermann et al. 1988). However, different species vary in the total numbers of vocalizations they produce. Bushbaby vocalizations are extremely variable, often grading into one another and are produced both during inhalation as well as during exhalation (Bearder et al. 1995).

Because morphological differences are not always useful for differentiation, vocalizations are considered a good way to tell bushbaby species from one another (Ambrose 2003). This is particularly true of advertising calls, which are often unique to species in primates and in bushbabies these types of calls are the most diagnostic (Zimmermann et al. 1988; Zimmermann 1990; 1995). Loud advertisement calls are often profoundly different than those of other bushbabies and are used to tell different species apart (for example Harcourt & Bearder 1989; Butynski et al. 1998; Wickings et al. 1998; Anderson et al. 2000; Perkin et al. 2002; Butynski & de Jong 2004; Ambrose 2006; Butynski et al. 2006). Vocalizations and olfactory marking are likely the best signals functioning in intra-species individual recognition by bushbabies (Ambrose 2003). Vocalizations can be so unique that bushbabies which are not distinguishable otherwise have been suggested as potential subspecies or even full species based mainly on differences in vocal structure (Perkin et al. 2002; Ambrose 2003). It is less likely that species of bushbaby can be be differentiated based on agonistic, attention, and alarm calls (Zimmermann 1990). Advertisement calls are usually heard upon emergence from the sleeping site, reconvening before sleep at the end of the activity period, and for maintaining contact during the night (Bearder et al. 1995). Further, advertisement calls might also be given in calling bouts between members of the same sex (Bearder et al. 1995).

While usually considered non-gregarious, G. moholi emits alarm calls when predators are encountered and the alarm calling is contagious, with other bushbabies joining in and coming together, mobbing and calling for up to 30 minutes around the threat (Bearder et al. 2002).

Call frequency is affected by population density, with some species calling more over the course of the nightly activity period if more conspecifics are nearby (Courtenay & Bearder 1989).

In the wild, urine-washing is a means by which G. alleni may disperse olfactory clues throughout its home range. In this species, the soles of the feet are washed with urine, which is subsequently dispersed, especially in areas of overlap with the home ranges of conspecifics (Charles-Dominique 1977b). Urine-washing may also communicate social clues to other bushbabies (Nash 1993). There are several types of scent-marking observed in captive G. demidoff. These include urine-washing, hand-rubbing, genital-planting, cheek-/chin-rubbing, chest-rubbing, anogenital-rubbing, and substrate-biting combined with flehmen (Pitts 1988). However, urine washing may also enhance grip in some species, e.g. G. moholi (Harcourt 1981).

Displays seen in G. demidoff include defensive displays seen in both sexes, defensive anti-intruder/anti-predator displays, male-male rank demonstration displays, and dominant-female self-advertising displays. Further, it is suggested that the displays given by dominant-males in offensive situations may be species specific and are a useful tool in differentiating species of bushbaby (Pitts 1988). In the wild, aggressive postures consist of the bushbaby extending its body and tail, spreading the ears and opening the mouth (Charles-Dominique 1977a).

Content last modified: December 8, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Leanne Nash.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 December 8. Primate Factsheets: Lesser bushbaby (Galago) Behavior . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/lesser_bushbaby/behav>. Accessed 2020 July 21.


For individual primate species conservation status, please search the IUCN Red List.
Also search the current scientific literature for primate conservation status (overall as well as for individual species), and visit CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Conservation information last updated in 2008 follows, for comparison:

Lesser bushbaby on a branch

Generally, bushbabies are considered adaptable and some species may be able to cope with some habitat degradation (Butynski et al. 1998; Ambrose 2006; Butynski et al. 2006). In some cases, bushbabies are still found in agricultural areas mixed with forest remnants (Butynski et al. 2006). G. demidoff, for example, is able to live in secondary habitats and near areas of human disturbance and G. gallarum is present in habitats which are significantly degraded by the overgrazing of livestock (Ambrose & Perkin 1999-2000; Butynski & de Jong 2004). Another example is G. alleni, which is sometimes found near roads and cultivation and in recently logged forests (Ambrose 2003). However, some species are extremely threatened. This is the case with the Rondo dwarf bushbaby (Galago rondoensis), which is listed as one of the world’s 25 Most Endangered Primates (Mittermeier et al. 2007).


Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

As with most primates, habitat degradation, disturbance and loss are the most serious threats to many species of bushbaby (Butynski 1996/1997; Butynski et al. 1998; Ambrose 2006; Mittermeier et al. 2007). While bushbabies in general are quite widespread, some have more restricted ranges and are correspondingly, more susceptible comparable amounts of habitat loss and degradation (Bearder 2007). In Tanzania, for example, in addition to habitat destruction occurring as a result of logging, montane forest is cleared for agriculture and lowland forest is removed for rice, sugar, and rubber agriculture (Butynski et al. 1998). One of the most endangered bushbabies, G. rondonensis is threatened by the expansion of agriculture, charcoal manufacturing and logging (Mittermeier et al. 2007). Elsewhere, species in Uganda are threatened by the clearance of forest for gardens (Ambrose 2006).

In forests that have been logged, bushbabies are found at lower densities than in primary forests (Weisenseel et al. 1993).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

In Tanzania, bushbabies are not actively hunted and elsewhere in central and west Africa, are only very rarely found in bushmeat markets (review by Bowen-Jones & Pendry 1999; Jørgensbye 2007). However, even one of the smallest bushbabies, G. demidoff, is reported eaten on Bioko Island, West Africa (Albrechtsen et al. 2006). This may mean that even though they are diminutive, bushbabies are not immune from threats posed by hunting and the bushmeat trade.

Threat: Accidental Mortality

Galagos have been found in traps designed to capture birds in Equatorial Guinea (Garcia & Mba 1997).





Content last modified: December 8, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Leanne Nash.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 December 8. Primate Factsheets: Lesser bushbaby (Galago) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/lesser_bushbaby/cons>. Accessed 2020 July 21.

The following references were used in the writing of this factsheet. To find current references for Galago, search PrimateLit.


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Cave drawing of a lesser bushbaby
Cave drawing of a lesser bushbaby

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Content last modified: December 8, 2008


Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle
Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle
Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle
Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle
Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle
Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle

Galago senegalensis braccatus
Photo: R. A. Barnes

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