Euoticus pallidus

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

Northern needle-clawed galagos are found in the lowland and mountainous forests of Nigeria, Cameron, and Bioko Island (Equatorial Guinea). These galago populations are found in clusters that are likely related to the distribution of their preferred food source, gum-producing trees. They prefer high canopies of primary and secondary forests that are complex and mature with a varied community of species. They tend to avoid forests that have been disturbed by humans or natural fires.


Needle-clawed galagos (genus Euoticus) are one of the oldest primates families that are still alive today (about 33 million years old). There are two subspecies, the Bioko needle-clawed galago, E. p. pallidus, which is found only on Bioko island, and the Nigeria needle-clawed galago, E. p. talboti, which is found in Nigeria and Cameroon. They used to be classified as a subspecies of the Southern needle-clawed galago (Euoticus elegantulus), however, they were elevated to a full species in 1989.

Galagos are also called bushbabies, and the species name “pallidus” comes from the relative pale or pallid color of northern needle-clawed galagos. So, sometimes this species is referred to as the pallid needle-clawed galago or the northern needle-clawed bushbaby.

It has always been challenging to classify galago species due to how similar they look. Genetic studies are the most definitive method of telling species apart, but researchers are still investigating how they can use the hand shape and reproductive organs of different galago species to distinguish one species from another.

Northern needle-clawed galago range, IUCN 2022

Size, Weight, and Lifespan

Galagos or bushbabies are small primates (usually about the size of a gray squirrel) and, among these tiny animals, the needle-clawed galagos are considered medium-sized, weighing about 9.7 ounces (277g).

The length of their long tail is between 11-13 inches (28-33 cm), and their head and body length is 6.8-8.3 inches (17-21 cm).

We do not know how long this species may live in the wild, but we assume their lifespans are similar to other galago species. Captive galagos has lived to be more than 15 years old.


Northern needle-clawed galagos are covered in reddish-brown fur with streaks of gray, especially on their arms, neck, and long bushy tails. They have a distinct dark stripe that runs along their back, called a dorsal stripe. Their belly tends to be paler, almost a dirty-yellow color. This type of contrasting coloration is a camouflage technique called countershading. When viewed from above, perhaps by an eagle, the galago blends into the dark brown trees. When viewed from below, by a leopard, their lighter fur blends in with the bright sky, clouds, and reflections on the leaves.

Galagos are most identifiable by their large round eyes and pointed fox-like ears. Needle-clawed galagos have dark eye-rings that frame their eyes, which are a bright orange-golden color. The best way to spot galagos in the wild is to use a flashlight at night and look in the trees for the bright red-pink reflection from their eyes. The reason for this reflection is a structure in their eyes called “tapetum lucidum,” which acts like a mirror, reflecting available light back to the sensitive visual nerve cells in their eyes, improving their night vision.

The needle-clawed galago genus, Euoticus, has a unique feature on their hands and feet. On four fingers of each hand, they have long, keeled (curved like a boat) nails that have a ridge or bump that runs along the length of the nail. The thumb lacks this long nail and instead has shorter claw-like nails.  And on each foot, three toes have long nails (similar to those on their fingers). The big toe on each foot has a shorter claw-like nail. The second toe on each foot has a modified claw which grows at an angle, called a toilet-claw.  Galagos use the toilet-claw to groom themselves to get rid of parasites and dirt. 

Illustration copyright 2013 Stephen D. Nash / IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group. Used with permission.

They are often referred to as gummivores because more than 75% of these galago’s diet consists of tree gum and sap. Tree gums are high in sugars and a good source of energy for quick movements. This diet allows the galagos to be active jumpers through cold nights. However the sugar rush does not last long, so they have to spend most of their active time feeding to sustain themselves. This is also why galagos that eat mostly gum cannot sustain larger bodies and tend to be smaller in size compared to primates that eat other food sources. When galagos sleep, they tend to huddle together for warmth as their energy level dips during the day.

Their specialized dental structure called a “toothscraper”, consists of straight-edged canines on the upper jaw and 4 incisor teeth on the lower jaw, which scrapes the bark off trees and releases the tree-gum. As their name suggests, needle-clawed galagos have pointed nails that help them cling vertically to tree trunks and reach into tree cavities to scoop hard-to-reach sap. The damage done to the tree bark gums does not kill the tree or prevent the tree from growing.

Behavior and Lifestyle

They are arboreal and prefer to use mid to high tree heights between 13-40 feet (4-12 m).

Their main locomotion form is running on all four limbs, quadrupedally. Their long claws allow them to climb larger trees and reach higher canopies, which helps them access more gums (their main food source) and avoid competitors and predators that occupy the lower levels of the forest.

They are extremely good at jumping and can travel from one tree to another by leaping long horizontal distances (13-32 feet or 4-10 m) usually with all four limbs stretched out. They are not as fast on the ground, making them vulnerable to predators if they need to travel on the forest floor. Whenever they have to climb down a tree, they do so head-first so they can watch for potential dangers since they are not as confident on the ground.

These primates are nocturnal (active at night) and spend most of the day resting in safe spots on a branch covered by dense leaves.

Fun Facts

Northern needle-clawed galagos can jump as far as 32 feet across a forest canopy.

They have unique boat-shaped (keeled) nails on their hands and feet (except for their thumb and two of their toes).

Most of their diet consists of tree gum and sap

They are nocturnal and communicate using distinct click sounds. 

Daily Life and Group Dynamics

Observing and conducting long-term studies on small nocturnal primates in dense forests is challenging. So there are a lot of gaps in our knowledge about the galago species that tend to avoid humans. A few observations have suggested that northern needle-clawed galagos tend to be more solitary than similarly sized galago species, which makes them even more difficult to study. Males tend to have a larger home range and their territory usually includes the home ranges of multiple females.

These galagos are usually highly active and one of the first nocturnal animals to leave their resting sites at around 6 pm. They forage throughout the night till they retire sometime between 5-6 am. They choose tree hollows, cavities, or branches protected by leaves to sleep for the day.

Other closely related galago species have been noted to forage individually and then come together at resting sites to sleep in a huddle, most likely to stay warm and conserve their energy.


Needle-clawed galagos were once referred to as “click-callers” because they made more clicking noises than other galagos. They maintain contact with each other using vocalizations. Throughout the night, partners and family members will call back and forth to make sure the other one is safe and nearby. Usually by the end of the night, a reassembly call, a high-pitched “tsic” sound, is emitted, which triggers troop members to gather together before they travel to their sleeping site. They also make longer clicks that are stronger and sharper and are called “yaps”. Researchers have identified shrill yaps and screech yaps in the wild, though the functions of these calls are still unknown.

As nocturnal animals, they have excellent night vision to see and navigate in the dark. However little is known about how they use facial expressions to communicate with each other. Visual communication in the dense foliage of tropical forests is difficult for most species, and it is even harder at night. Using sound is a more reliable way to contact other individuals because you do not have to see each other to get your message across.

Olfactory (sense of smell) communication is another way to leave a message to another animal without actually seeing them. Many galagos species use urine and gland secretion to mark branches and trails they travel along the canopy, but it is unclear how the northern needle-clawed galago uses these scents to communicate with each other.

Reproduction and Family

There is not a lot known about the species’ social and reproductive behavior. Most observations of wild species usually include moments when mothers visibly carry their babies. From the available literature, it seems that usually only one baby is born per year to a mother. Infants are carried in their mother’s mouth for the first few weeks and then they cling to their mother’s fur while she travels the forest canopy to forage. Unlike many other galago species, northern needle-clawed galago mothers do not “park” their young, which is a behavior where mothers may leave their young on a secure branch while they search for food.

No photos are available of the northern needle-clawed galago. This is the southern needle-clawed galago. Photo: © bureaubenjamin/iNaturalist/Creative Commons
Ecological Role

Galagos are a good example of thriving in a specialization. Tropical forests are known for the large number of species they can support, especially animals that feed on fruits (frugivores) and leaves (folivores). You can imagine that the competition for these types of foods is high. Few species can digest and get enough energy from eating mostly tree sap. As a gum specialist, galagos can thrive in the gum-eating niche (a specific role in the environment) and avoid competition with the frugivores and folivores. Their adaptations for this lifestyle mean that forests can support more diversity.

They are also a food source for different types of predators such as owls, genets, pythons, leopards, and hyenas.

These galagos and their specializations are an example of how mature habitats like tropical forests try to maximize the diversity of life they can contain.

Conservation Status and Threats

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the northern needle-clawed galago as Near Threatened  (IUCN, 2016), appearing on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The rapid conversion of forests to developed land has resulted in a 20% decrease in the northern needle-clawed galago’s population over the past 15 years. In 2008, these galagos were assigned a conservation status of “Least Concern”, a low-priority category! In eight years, their conservation status was elevated to Near Threatened. This change in status indicates how serious the following threats to these primates are. 

Nigeria and Cameroon have been developing quickly from an economic and infrastructure perspective. This progress is usually associated with deforestation where natural habitats are converted to agricultural lands, housing, roads, etc. Logging industries that provide timber for export or national development are also causes of habitat destruction. Wildlife, particularly less visible species like the galago that have a low economic or cultural value, often become a low priority in the light of economic development. 

Many galago species are captured for the pet trade because they are so small and cute, but there are no reported cases of the northern needle-clawed galago in the pet industry. So, the pet trade is currently not a serious threat to their survival, however, it may be because their relative numbers (compared to other smaller primate or prosimian species) are so small that they escape the attention of trappers. 

Conservation Efforts

The northern needle-clawed galago is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between governments whose goal is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Consequently, trade is controlled, not necessarily prohibited, as the current population is stable enough to regenerate itself without fear of extinction.

Needle-clawed galagos are protected mostly through the establishment of national parks where development is prohibited. Korup, Takamanda and Mt. Cameroon National Parks (in Cameroon), and Gran Caldera Scientific Reserve (on Bioko Island) are examples of protected areas where galago populations have safe havens.

Northern needle-clawed galagos have such a limited distribution and recent taxonomic reclassification that species-specific studies on their population and ecology are limited. More data on their numbers in the wild are still needed to understand what aspects of their ecology will need support to ensure their continued survival in the face of global wildlife threats such as climate change and deforestation.

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Written by Acima Cherian, March 2024