The Giant Jumping Rat, another peculiarity from Madagascar
Rhettt A. Butler, mongabay.com
May 8, 2005
The giant jumping rat is the largest rodent in Madagascar, roughly equivilant in size to a rabbit. Also like a rabbit, the giant jumping rat has long pointed ears, short fur and large rear feet which are used for jumping. The giant jumping rat can leap almost three feet (one meter) into the air to avoid predators -- namely the puma-like fossa which is actually related to the mongoose and the Madagascar ground boa.
Again, like rabbits, giant jumping rats live in burrows. These typically consist of a complex of tunnels, each around 18 inches (45cm) in diameter, up to 17 feet (5 meters) long and a yard (one meter) underground. A family unit, consisting of a monogamous pair and offspring, generally lives in a burrow and maintains a territory covering 7-10 acres (3-4 hectares) -- although this expands in the dry seasons when food is scarce.
Nocturnal, giant jumping rats leave their burrow at dusk to feed on fallen fruit and seeds. Food is consumed in a manner similar to squirrels whereby it is held in the forepaws and manipulated in the mouth while the rat sits semi-upright on its haunches.
According to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of Madagascar's unique species, in the wild giant jumping rats are born at the start of the warm rainy season in late November and early December. A litter generally consists of one or two young who stay with their parents for varying amounts of time depending on their sex; 2 to 3 years for female offspring and 1 to 2 years for young males. In captivity giant jumping rats have life expectancy of 5 years.
A species on the brink
If you are interested in contributing to the conservation efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, please visit their web site at www.durrellwildlife.org/. There you can also learn more about the ecology of the giant jumping rat and other species in Madagascar. Donations can be made here.
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