Tree squirrel at the day visitors picnic spot

Southern African Tree Squirrel

Paraxerus cepapi

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.

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33 thoughts on “Southern African Tree Squirrel

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      They’ve become very much at home in several of the Kruger camps, and it is noticeable how they’ve come to learn that humans equal food in those situations, while “out in the bush” they won’t allow a human anywhere near them!

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      1. iAMsafari

        And so much of the other ‘residential’ wildlife Dries, such as Bushbuck, Guineafowls, Sunbirds – you don’t have to search for Waterbuck, Hippo and Elephants down at the river to be left in awe of such diversity. About time we make it back…

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              1. iAMsafari

                No, that’s only done very recently I heard? Absolutely worth to immerse oneself in the history of the big tuskers – I clearly remember your encounter(s) with some of those magnificent individuals 🙂

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                1. de Wets Wild Post author

                  We never miss a chance to go to the museum – it’s a truly awesome experience every time. The displays have been updated and augmented, and the ivory of Mandleve (the heaviest ever recorded in Kruger) can now also be admired. Letaba is a firm favourite of ours.

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  1. John

    Beautiful squirrel, but it is different from the one we have here in Sweden and Europe. Our squirrel has more fur and hairy tail. Our squirrel can have three litters of cubs in the summer so the females have a lot of work. Believe that all squirrels in the whole world are related to each other, they are at least very similar. Do you have several species of squirrels in South Africa?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      The family resemblance really is clear to see in most cases, I agree John. We have three indigenous species of squirrel here in South Africa, with many more occurring in the tropical parts of the continent north of our borders. A 4th species, the Grey Squirrel, was introduced to Cape Town from North America (via Britain) in colonial times and is now well established there.

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