City living = stress for African lesser bushbabies

Mostly a loner, the African lesser bushbaby feeds on insects, supplementing its diet with sugar-rich gum of the acacia tree, as well as fruits. When urbanised, the availability of sugar-rich food sources, such as yogurt, catfood and bread, drives the lesser bushbaby to abandon its solitary lifestyle. As a result, the fight for food at a feeding spot increases the level of stress among them.



Dr Juan Scheun

Urbanisation also changes their traveling habits – bushbabies pair up or congregate in groups of up to ten. Having an abundance of sugar-rich food, however, may come at a potential cost. The lesser bushbaby living in towns show significantly higher body mass values compared to their rural counterparts.

These are some of the findings on Galago moholi in a recent research article led by Dr Juan Scheun, a postdoctoral fellow of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa. It was published in Springer’s multidisciplinary science journal, The Science of Nature.

Scheun and his co-authors concluded that the impact of urbanisation on this nocturnal species is considerable, affecting a range of ecological and physiological aspects.

Dr Scheun’s research efforts on the topic were recognised last week when he was named as the 2016 recipient of the Arnold Berliner Award 2016. It has been awarded since 2013 to an outstanding scholarly work published in the The Science of Nature (formerly known as Naturwissenschaften). Criteria for the Award are excellence in science, originality and, in particular, interdisciplinarity.

Dr Scheun received his PhD in zoology and animal biology from the University of Pretoria. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa in Pretoria. His main focus at the moment is conservation ecology and endocrinology of threatened and/or endangered African species.

Reference: Scheun, J. et al (2015). “The hustle and bustle of city life: monitoring the effects of urbanisation in the African lesser bushbaby”, The Science of Nature

* This article is based on a press release by Springer, a leading global research, educational and professional publisher


SciBraai, a proudly South African NPO dedicated to science journalism, communication and outreach. SciBraai began on Heritage Day 2013 - Anina Mumm and Engela Duvenage in 2013 launched the website,, to feature stories about South African research, technology and innovation, and the people behind the discoveries. This blog welcomes all South Africans to go behind the scenes of local science and exploration endeavors. It’s a place to share stories about the scientists themselves and the interesting, little-known activities that are often left out of research journals. A place to learn more about the stuff that makes South African science and its people tick. A place to feel inspired about what South Africans are discovering on home soil and abroad. Because local is lekker, no matter what language you use. SciBraai's following has grown in the past years, and we are now on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We've also begun organising real-life braai's where we share round-the-fire stories about South African science and scientists.

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