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Lesser bushbaby

Conservation status:

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)

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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).

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.


Galago moholi
Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle

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).

Galago senegalensis
Galago senegalensis
Photo: R.A. Barnes

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; 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 (; 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 (


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).

Galago moholi
Galago moholi
Photo: Gerald Doyle

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 . <>. Accessed 2020 August 15.