Whether you’re listening to birdsongs or watching insects flutter past, you’re never truly alone when out in nature. Wildlife scout Careen Nyambe, who form part of one of the ranger patrol teams in the Simalaha Community Conservancy, demonstrates why this is the case when she films some of her newest furry friends, the ubiquitous African Bush squirrel, at the buffalo camp.
Believe it or not, but what you are looking at, is in fact a rodent. Belonging to the family Sciuridae, which also includes chipmunks, marmots and prairie dogs, squirrels have been around on the African continent for around 20 million years. As the name implies, tree squirrels are arboreal, which means that they live in trees, but as seen in Careen’s video, will often come down to the ground to forage for food. Thanks to years of living comfortably alongside humans, these squirrels have become quite brazen and won’t think twice about venturing out to see what the scouts are cooking for dinner…and more importantly, hang around to see if there will be any leftovers. Unfortunately, they often leave disappointed as the scouts know that feeding wild animals interferes and upsets the balance of the food chain and creates an unwanted dependency on humans.
Like most other squirrels, the bush squirrel is only active during the day and at night, will nest together in family groups up in a tree out of danger. Although these mischievous little animals provide some bush entertainment, they actually play an important role of alerting other animals and birds to dangers such as snakes or predators. When alarmed, the squirrels will take refuge in a tree and make clicking sounds accompanied by a flick of their tails – a nifty little alarm for others nearby.
Careen and her fellow scouts have the important responsibility of looking after and monitoring the wild animals in the Simalaha sanctuary. Keeping wildlife safe allows for Simalaha communities to promote conservation of the area as well as generate and income through nature-based economies and tourism opportunities, a part of Peace Parks Foundation’s plan to develop large landscapes with healthy ecosystems.