Smith's Bush Squirrel
Smith's Bush Squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi), also known as Yellow-footed Squirrel and in South Africa as the Tree Squirrel, is an African bush squirrel found in Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The total length is 350 mm, half of which is tail. This species only weighs 200 gram. The coat colour varies throughout the region. In the western and arid parts of its range it is pale grey, and in the eastern localities more brown. Head and legs are a rusty colour. Colouration on the chest varies from yellowish to buffy in the east, to white in the west. The Tree Squirrels' bellies are white. These alert and ever busy creatures carry their long tails extended backwards.
Primarily vegetarian, but like most rodents will take insect prey. Tree squirrels use their forefeet to manipulate food items when feeding. They scatter-hoard seeds next to tree trunks or grass tufts, thereby facilitating tree regeneration.
Essentially arboreal animals, but spend a great deal of time on the ground, foraging for food. When disturbed, Tree Squirrels will always seek the refuge of trees. During the night, territorial family groups nest together in holes in trees. Offspring become sexually mature between six to nine months, at which stage they are forcibly evicted by the breeding pair. The males are mainly responsible for territorial defense, although females will also chase intruders when she cares for dependent pups. To promote group cohesion, a common scent is shared by mutual grooming, which is an important facet of the social fibre of this species. Tree Squirrels are diligent in their grooming and a mother tree squirrel will hold her offspring down with her forelegs while grooming the little animal with licks, nibbles and the use of her claws.
The southern limit of this rodentís distribution, extends into the woodland savanna regions of North Western, Northern and Mpumalanga Provinces, and from here eastwards to Swaziland and Mozambique.
A conspicuous feature of their behaviour when under threat is 'mobbing': all the members of the colony make harsh clicking sounds while they flick their tails, building up momentum and gradually getting louder. In some areas they are solitary, or are found in small family groups: a lone tree squirrel relies on its wits when in danger and always keeps a branch or the trunk of a tree between it and the enemy. The Tree Squirrel is always alert, and when alarmed, it will run away with great speed, making for the nearest tree where it will lie motionless, flattened against a branch.
The length of this species (including the tail) is 35 cm long, and weighs 190 g.
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