During our first walk to the river, G pointed towards something in the rocks. I saw nothing. He had to take my camera and zoom in for me to realize what he was looking at. These chubby grey rodents were hanging out between the rocks, blending in flawlessly. He told me they were called shikoko.
Looking through my Lonely Planet Amharic Phrase Book, I saw the word written as chekoko and translated to squirrel. They definitely did not look like squirrels to me. Without a fluffy tail they looked more like big guinea pigs to me.
We hung out by the rocks and watched them for awhile. Any movement or noise and they would quickly disappear within the rocks. Then one by one they would pop back up to get some sun. For me watching animals just doing their thing is very relaxing. I love that river and those little shikoko.
The shikoko have stayed on my mind so naturally I wanted to know more about them. With my phrase book translating them to squirrels, I knew there was more to the story. My first attempts at Google fell short as I searched for ‘chekoko’. Using the spelling ‘shikoko’ that G had used was more lucrative and brought me to this website where at the very bottom it read:
- Rock Hyrax (Procavia habessinica). Amharic: Shikoko.
These rock coloured rodents are called rock hyrax or sometimes the rock badger. I read up on their wiki to learn a bit more. They live in groups of around ten. To stay safe from predators when they are out foraging, they use a sentry system where one of them stands guard at all times. If any danger is spotted, the sentry sounds the alarm and everyone gets back to safety in between the rocks. Another fun fact, their hyraceum (“sticky mass of dung and urine”) has been collected and used in South Africa as naturopathic medicine for epilepsy and convulsions. Sounds nice.
I came across these little guys while walking near G’s condo in Akaki-Kality. I am sure they are abundant in Addis Ababa, you just have to keep your eyes to the rocks.