Plant-eating rock hyraxes live in colonies of 25 to 80 animals amid rocks and scrub. Each family unit consists of a male, one or more females, and their young.
What They Eat
Rock hyraxes eat all kinds of plants, including ones that are poisonous to other animals. They occasionally eat insects and bark as well.
Where They Live
Hyraxes survive in rugged terrain across a wide range of latitudes. Their main need seems to be warmth.
What They Do
Unlike almost all other mammals, hyraxes cannot control their body temperature. This poor thermoregulation means they are active mainly during the day and spend a lot of time sunning themselves on rocks. They also tend to stay huddled in rock shelters at night or when weather is rainy, cool or cloudy.
How They’re Doing
Hyraxes appear abundant and not threatened in most of the places they are found.
- When hyrax colonies are out and about, one member acts as a sentry, watching for danger and barking if it sees something that alarms it.
- The hyrax’s feet have a moist, sticky surface that works like a suction cup to help it cling to surfaces as it climbs.
- Sociable creatures, hyraxes use more than 20 different sounds to communicate with each other.
- Hyraxes have been observed to go more than four months without water.
- The hyrax’s closest relatives are elephants, manatees, and dugongs.
- Fossils have been found that suggest hyrax ancestors were the size of oxen.
- Hyraxes can climb trees.
- Rock hyrax colonies urinate and defecate in a single spot on the rocks. Over time, this pile becomes a large, sticky mass. This material has been used by humans for a variety of purposes, including medicine.
People occasionally hunt rock hyraxes for food or for their hides. Overall, however, hyrax populations seem to be steady and strong.