Southern lesser galago (Galago moholi)

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Southern lesser galago fact file

Southern lesser galago description

GenusGalago (1)

A small, elusive primate, the southern lesser galago (Galago moholi) has large round eyes, large prominent ears, and a remarkable ability to turn its head through 180 degrees (2) (4). It has light greyish-brown fur on its back, a lighter underside with a distinct yellowish tinge, and a long tail which is usually grey with a darker tip. Its head is dark grey and there are distinctive black markings around the eyes (4). The male and female southern lesser galago are similar in appearance, but the male is often slightly heavier than the female (5).

The index finger of this species is more widely separated than the other digits, an adaptation which helps the southern lesser galago to easily grip branches and catch small invertebrate prey (4).

There are two recognised subspecies of the southern lesser galago, the Namibia lesser galago (Galago moholi bradfieldi) and the Moholi lesser galago (Galago moholi moholi) (1).

Also known as
Mohol galago, Moholi lesser galago, Namibia lesser galago, South African galago, South African lesser galago, southern lesser bushbaby.
Galago senegalensis moholi.
Head-body length: 8.8 - 20.5 cm (2)
Tail length: 11.3 - 27.9 cm (2)
Ear length: 2.3 - 5 cm (2)
95 - 244 g (2)

Southern lesser galago biology

The southern lesser galago is a social animal and has been known to spend several hours grooming and playing in groups of two or three. It sleeps in a group during the day, but disperses to forage alone at night (6), moving swiftly through the trees by running, walking or leaping from branch to branch. The southern lesser galago can cover up to five metres in a single bound, and can switch between moving quadrupedally, using four legs, and bipedally, using two legs (4).

The diet of the southern lesser galago consists of insects such as grasshoppers, termites and beetles, as well as gum from inside Acacia stems (7). It has a specialised digestive system which ferments Acacia gum to extract the nutrients (8). The southern lesser galago relies on Acacia gum as a year-round food supply, especially during winter when insect numbers decline (9). Instead of drinking from water sources, the southern lesser galago obtains water from its food (8).

The average gestation period for the southern lesser galago is 129 days (10), and the female gives birth to twins once or twice a year (1). Young are born between January and February and from September to November, in a leaf-lined nest prepared by the female or in a tree hollow (4) (11). Half an hour after birth, the young southern lesser galago is able to crawl around the nest, and at around four weeks of age it starts catching its own food, although it is still dependent on the female (4).

The female changes the location of the nest site every 10 to 14 days, which is thought to be an anti-predator strategy. The southern lesser galago may be preyed upon by domestic cats, genets and jackals (12) (13).


Southern lesser galago range

Common and widespread in southern Africa, the southern lesser galago can be found from north-eastern South Africa north to south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its range includes Namibia and Angola on the western coast of Africa and Zambia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and western Tanzania in the east (1).

The southern lesser galago’s range is expanding, especially in the south, where this species has been recorded in new locations such as Gauteng in South Africa. It may be present in Rwanda and Burundi, but this is yet to be confirmed (1).

The Moholi lesser galago (subspecies G. m. moholi) can be found in eastern parts of the range, to south-eastern Botswana, and its distribution crosses over with the Namibia lesser galago (subspecies G. m. bradfieldi) in the Western Province of Zambia. The Namibia lesser galago also occurs in Namibia, southern Angola and nort-eastern Botswana, including the Makgadikgadi Pan (1).


Southern lesser galago habitat

Inhabiting the savanna woodlands of Africa, the southern lesser galago is often found near Acacia trees, which provide a supply of gum. It also occupies Miombo and mopane (Colophospermum mopane) woodland, riverine gallery forest and the edges of wooded areas (1).


Southern lesser galago status

The southern lesser galago is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Southern lesser galago threats

The southern lesser galago is currently a common and widespread species and is not considered to be under threat (1).


Southern lesser galago conservation

In addition to being listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3), which makes it an offence to trade the southern lesser galago without a permit, this species occurs in many protected areas throughout its range and its population is currently considered stable (1).


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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


The ability to walk on two hind limbs, rather than all four limbs.
Gallery forest
Forest growing along a river or stream.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Miombo woodland
A type of woodland extending from Tanzania to northern South Africa, which is dominated by trees in the genus Brachystegia.
Applied to animals that walk on four feet.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
  2. Nash, L.T., Bearder, S.K. and Olson, T.R. (1989) Synopsis of Galago species characteristics. International Journal of Primatology, 10(1): 57-80.
  3. CITES (August, 2011)
  4. Skinner, J.D. and Chumimba, C.T. (2005) The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  5. Estes, R.D. (1992) The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.
  6. Bearder, S.K. (1999) Physical and social diversity among nocturnal primates: A new view based on long term research. Primates, 40(1): 267-282.
  7. Caton, J.M., Lawes, M. and Cunningham, C. (2000) Digestive strategy of the south-east African lesser bushbaby, Galago moholi. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 127(1): 39-48.
  8. Charles-Dominique, P. and Bearder, S.K. (1979) Field studies of lorisid behaviour: Methodological aspects. In: Doyle, G.A. and Martin, R.D. (Eds.). Prosimian Behaviour. Academic Press, London.
  9. Bearder, S.K. and Martin, R.D. (1980) Acacia gum and its use by bushbabies, Galago senegalensis (Primates: Lorisidae). International Journal of Primatology, 1(5): 103-128.
  10. Lipschitz, D.L. (1996) A preliminary investigation of the relationship between ovarian steroids, LH, reproductive behaviour and vaginal changes in lesser bushbabies (Galago moholi). Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, 107: 167-174.
  11. Nowack, J. Mzilikazi, N. and Dausmann, K.H. (2010) Torpor on demand: Heterothermy in the non-lemur primate Galago moholi. PLoS ONE, 5(5): e10797
  12. Doyle, G.A. (1974) The behaviour of the lesser bushbaby (Galago senegalensis moholi). In: Doyle, G.A. and Martin, R.D. (Eds.). Prosimian Biology. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.
  13. Bearder, S.K., Nekaris, K.A.I. and Buzzell, C.A. (2002) Dangers in the dark: are some nocturnal primates afraid of the dark? In: Miller, L.E. (Ed.) Eat or be Eaten. Predator Sensitive Foraging Among Primates. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK.

Image credit

Side profile of southern lesser galago  
Side profile of southern lesser galago

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