The Southern African Tree Squirrel (also known as Smith’s Bush Squirrel) occurs in bushveld and woodland, and is especially plentiful in riverine bush and mopane veld. They feed on leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit and berries, bark, pods, gum, moss and occasionally insects, eggs and chicks. They can live independently of drinking water. On average they’re about 35cm long (including their bushy tail) and weigh around 175g.
Although they are usually seen foraging alone, Tree Squirrels live in small groups consisting of 1 or 2 males, females and young. The whole group shares a nest, usually a hole in a tree lined with soft plant material. Tree Squirrels are diurnal, and enjoy baking in the sun near their nest hole in the early morning. Their noisy alarm calls is often a good clue as to the whereabouts of predators. When threatened they run to the nearest tree, moving around the trunk so that it is always between them and the attacker, but they can jump distances of up to 2 metres when the need arises.
Females give birth to 1-3 tiny (10g) babies at anytime of year, though mostly in the rainy season. The young leave the nest from about 3 weeks old. Snakes, eagles, owls, genets, cats and mongooses are the chief predators of Tree Squirrels, which has a life expectancy of about 8 years in the wild.
The Southern African Tree Squirrel is found in southern Angola, Zambia, southern DRC, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, northern Namibia, Swaziland and northern South Africa (Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, North West and extreme northern Kwazulu-Natal), where it is a common species and regarded as being of least concern by the IUCN.