among the penguins at boulders beach. Very tame
Saw on Table Mountain, South Africa.
An oddball mammal, offshoot from close to the base of the placental mammalian tree -- sometimes called the Syrian Rabbit, but has nothing to do with rabbits. Elephants & manatees are its closest living relatives -- what, you can't see the family resemblance? Well, guess that's not surprising -- even those, it's pretty distant from.
I was surprised to read that it doesn't have very good body temperature regulation -- it lives in relatively warm climates in Africa & the Middle East & supplements its metabolic efforts with behavioral thermoregulation (basking, huddling, or sheltering), like a lizard.
At this busy tourist site they have become quite used to people and were foraging right near the path. There was a group of a dozen or so, very social.
When I saw them, I got all excited -- hey, a whole new order of mammals for my lifelist! -- until somebody nearby in line authoritatively informed us that they weren't hyraxes, they were nutrias, a S Am rodent imported for fur (that quickly lost any useful fur in the warm climate, but is disruptive to the native aquatic vegetation). I was so disappointed! Until later in the trip when we saw bona fide nutrias, which are totally different (and which I mistook for otters until I got THAT straightened out, but that's a different story!). Well, they're about the same size & color, but that's about the size of it! They have a long tail, for starters, and are aquatic like muskrats.
The "cape" in the name, BTW, refers to the Cape of Good Hope -- where European naturalists first studied all sorts of species and named dozens of them the 'Cape' such-and-such, with little or no idea of the extent of their range. They may be land animals found throughout all of sub-Saharan Africa (or beyond, as in this case), or seabirds found as far away as New Zealand.
Hyraxes (from the Greek ὕραξ "shrewmouse") are small, thickset, herbivorous mammals in the order Hyracoidea. Hyraxes are well-furred, rotund animals with short tails. Typically, they measure between 30 and 70 cm long and weigh between 2 and 5 kg. They are often mistaken for rodents, but are more closely related to elephants. Four species are recognised; the rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), the yellow-spotted rock hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei), the western tree hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis) and the southern tree hyrax...