Striped Ground Squirrel

Squirrel eating nuts
Striped Ground Squirrel (Xerus erythropus) © Warren Photographic

Striped Ground Squirrel, Xerus erythropus, is a species of terrestrial squirrels, distributed throughout the semi-arid regions of Africa, a rodent in the Sciuridae family, distinct by its coarse pelage and having conspicuous white side-stripe on each flank. They are found primarily in dry open woodlands where their fur is frequently tinted in the color of the soil in which the animal is found, and also in Sudanic Savannas between the Sahara and the tropical forests. Although abundant in much of sub Saharan Africa, the Nigerian subspecies, X. e. chadensis is threatened.

The Striped ground squirrel is usually found singly or in pairs and they show brief greeting gesture by nose-to-nose sniffing. In this terrestrial and nocturnal animal, claws are present, long and slightly curved, but climbing trees is nearly impossible. During the heat of the day, Striped Ground Squirrel move into areas of shade, or shelter in their burrows which consists of a central chamber and about three entrance tunnels. The African striped ground squirrel has been found to constitute a serious pest to maize seed at the planting stage. It is susceptible to rabies street virus and the clinical signs do not differ markedly from those of other mammalian hosts. The people of Northern Nigeria firmly believe that a fatal madness follows the bite of the ground squirrel in 1-6 months.

Gestation period of 71 days ends in the production of a litter of 4 young squirrels, many of who is weaned by 53 days and attain sexual maturity in one year. Human disruption of habitats may limit the lifespan, which averages 2 years in the wild.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer