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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 50: Zanj Sun Squirrel in Selous

20 October 2009.
After uploading a bunch of photos of and writing about undulates - hoofed animals - I decided to not continue with the next cousin of antelopes and cattle. Now one of the most abundant mammal groups. They are fast. They are less often seen and even less photographed. Perhaps they are not that interesting to many people. But I recon they are also too quickly moving and usually very precautious and well hidden.

Of course I'm talking about rodents (knaagdieren). There are mice, rats, squirrels (eekhoorns) and the likings everywhere. For instance I do know I saw mice at the eastern Naabi Hill gate in the Serengeti. Tiny. Under the leaves of a big tree. Impossible to get a photo. They were gone when I approached them.

Luckily at the Selous River Camp right next to the Rufiji river I went for an early morning strawl with my camera. This camp site is nice and quiet - unlike those in Serengeti or Ngorongoro - with lush trees and shrub. I think they had less than 10 guests in total. I saw a squirrel running and jumping from branch to branch and from tree to tree. In order to get a photo I actually followed it for a hundred or so meters. I managed to get a few photos in the early morning light.

It's hard to get a good photo when the light is not so strong and the squirrel is moving quickly, hiding for me as well, high up in the trees. I tried to avoid making any noise, but that's hard with all the leaves, twigs and bushes on your path.

I think it's a Zanj Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus undulatus; Zanj Zonne-eekhoorn). But it can also be a Mutable Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus mutabilis). They are very similar in size and appearance. The Mutable Sun Squirrel is a bit more reddish or tawny than the Zanj Sun Squirrel. But to distinguish that with the minimal reference material I have, that's hard. Also the colour of the fur does not tell it all: the early morning sun gives it a reddish glow anyways and if I change the white balance of my camera a bit we already go from Zanj to Mutable ;-) Looking at the tail I'd say it's the Zanj Sun Squirrel. The tail in the Zanj Sun Squirrel is on average longer than its body and in the Mutable Sun Squirrel the body is a bit longer.

If you can tell me which one of the two squirrels it is for sure or have any reference material, please leave a comment here or on Flickr.
And if not: just enjoy the photos of this squirrel with its fancy striped tail!

For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Rodentia; Rodents / Knaagdieren
Family: Sciuridae; Squirrels / Eekhoorns
Subfamily: Xerinae; Marmots, Ground Squirrels, Afrian Tree Squirrels / Marmotten, Aardeekhoorns, Palmeekhoorns
Genus: Heliosciurus; Sun Squirrels / Zonne-eekhoorns
Species: Heliosciurus undulatus; Zanj Sun Squirrel or Eastern Sun Squirrel / Zanj Zonne-eekhoorn

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure I saw (and photographed) one of these near Mount Kenya a couple weeks ago, but I am having a hard time finding any information on them--including a current distribution map. Did you ever get any feedback/responses about your sighting?