Conservation Education and Science
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Rock Hyrax
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Procavia capensis
ORDER: Hyracoidea
FAMILY: Procaviidae
RANGE: From Lebanon southward throughout most of Africa
HABITAT: Rock outcrop (kopje), cliff or boulder scree
DIET: Tree leaves, grasses and shoots
ENEMIES: Eagles, leopards, hyenas, jackals and pythons

The rock hyrax is small, furry and solidly built, weighing six-to-eight pounds, with round ears, short snout, cleft upper lip, a pair of continually growing upper incisors, modified as tusks, and a rudimentary tail. The coat is brownish-gray, with a cream underside. The nails resemble hooves and the feet have sticky pads, giving the animal excellent grip on steep rocks. The scent gland is a bare dorsal spot, one-to-three inches long, surrounded by erectile hair, and very conspicuous when open. The gland secretes an aromatic fluid when the animal is excited Although it looks like a rodent, the rock hyrax is actually related to the elephant.

The rock hyrax has very little control over its body temperature and depends on shelter against both heat and cold. Given feet useless for digging, the hyrax depends on existing holes to stay cool by day and warm by night. Colonial animals, hyrax usually live in groups in rock crevices, with a dominant male and several adult females presiding over the young. The family basks in the early morning sun until one goes off to feed. If a predator appears, the male utters a warning cry, sending the whole herd scurrying back into the rocks.

Two or three well-developed young are born after a seven-to-eight month gestation, quite long for such a small animal. Weaned at one-to-five months, youngsters remain in the family until reaching sexual maturity at about 16 months.

The rock hyrax has sharp eyesight and a unique eye shape. The iris bulges out above the pupil, cutting off light from directly above the head, enabling the animal to look almost directly into the sun and keep watch for birds of prey.