Our focus on this website is predominantly on birds and birding, but we have spent many delightful hours watching the squirrels that are found in Namibia and Botswana. The two varieties that are prevalent here are the Cape ground squirrel (Xerus inauris), found mainly in the dry, semi-desert areas and the little tree squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi), which mostly favours woodland areas.
On visits to the Kgalagadi TF Park and the Central Kalahari, this year, we came across scores of the Cape ground squirrels and had to drive very carefully to our campsites because they had completely undermined the road with all their burrows. Living in little colonies, they share the burden of keeping an eye out for predators. They appear just as comfortable standing on their hinds legs as walking around on all fours.
We saw a banded cobra take refuge in a squirrel burrow when we stopped too close to it, but squirrels also often share their living space with mongoose and meercats.
The ground squirrel’s diet is varied and apart from eating seeds, pods, insects and whatever else they can catch, they are also partial to bread and other foodstuff that generous campers offer them. Bigger than the tree squirrel, the ground squirrel is easy to recognize as it has a white stripe down its side and an enormous bushy tail. The tail, when lifted, serves as a sunshade.
The tree squirrels are shyer than their bigger cousins and tend to live in smaller groups. We found them much more difficult to pin down for photographs until we went to Savuti in Botswana, where the little critters virtually took over our campsite and we had to hold down all our food and snacks. They had no qualms about coming into the caravan, car and even onto an occupied chair to pinch some nuts. We were amused at how they picked up nuts and carried them long distances to store, before coming back for more.
The little one pictured above was brazen enough to nibble my toes before climbing up my leg and onto the chair.
At the Island Safari campsite in Maun, we were fascinated to see how the tree squirrels almost mobbed a puff adder as it slithered through the campsite. Together with the birds they made quite a noisy fuss about the danger that this snake presented to them.