African Giant-Pouched Rat (Cricetomys gambianus)
Recently, a giant-pouched rat by the name of Magawa won an award in Cambodia. This rat is used to help sniff out landmines in the country, making the place a far safer place for the citizens. So what more can we find out about these rats?
Physical Description and Behavior
Otherwise known as the Gambian Pouched Rat, these guys are known as one of the largest muroids in the world. In fact, it can grow up to 3-feet long. The reason for their name is due to the fact that they have pouches in their cheeks, not unlike those of hamsters. In fact, despite being referred to as rats, they are not considered to be "true" rats but are closely related to them.
Fun fact: These rats are able to reproduce 4-5 times a year, with each of their litters consisting of 1-5 young each. This is quite a lot of sex for most mammals, who usually only reproduce 1-2 times a year.
They are also omnivorous, eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, palm kernels, insects, crabs, and more. They take food and store it in their puffy cheeks while foraging, before returning to their burrow in order to store it there for later consumption.
Habitat and Location
Due to the fact that they burrow and are sensitive to heat, they prefer cool and dry places to live. They are mainly found in forests and forest clearings, occasionally near rivers. They make their homes under both alive and dead trees, especially if the tree has a termite colony.
These rats can be found in Africa from Senegal and Ghana, all the way through Cameroon, South Sudan, and Uganda. They are considered to be of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List.
Look at this pet giant rat getting scratches.