It's a vulture, it's a rodent, it's..... a tree-dwelling elephant?

One of my first nights in the village, trying to fall asleep long after dark, I heard a loud call echoing across the rainforest, a sort of cross between a croak and a trill.

A bird seemed like a logical producer of this sound; a large carnivorous bird. I was sure there was a vulture of some sort perched outside my window at the back of the house, screaming into the night. One of the fortunate things about my irrational fears of all things avian is that I'm fairly adept at self-delusion, so, heart in my throat, I convinced myself it was only a...well, oversized grasshopper, or crazed frog, or something -- anything -- other than a bird.

You can well imagine my relief one morning when Becky asked if I'd heard the hyraxes. "Is that the creature that makes that trilling call?" I asked warily, unsure if I wanted to know. "What is it?"

"It's the most interesting creature," she said. "It looks like kind of like a rabbit, but it lives up in a tree. That call you hear can be coming from up to a mile away."

Whew! Becky was a bit taken aback by my joy at discovering it was a rodent. And a very unique rodent it is. I've already told you it lives in trees and resembles a rabbit. It has rodent-like incisors which grow continuously, multiple stomachs but it doesn't chew a cud, special pads on its feet which allow for agile climbing, small hooves on the first and third digits of the hind foot, and best of all, the nearest biological relative of this tree-dwelling, rabbit-resembling, rodent-like animal of the order Hyracoidea is Proboscidea. In other words, an elephant.

Listen for the hyrax below. Turn up your volume as high as it goes, then listen for the trilling call of the hyrax over the undulating song of the crickets.


Anonymous said…
Why have I never heard about this crazy animal?
I looked for pictures, and they don't look very friendly.
I was also hoping they'd look a bit more like an elephant.
Tom said…

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