The Sandy Blind Mole-Rat (Spalax arenarius)
Ukraine has a lot of fascinating animal and plant species that are endemic to the country. Sadly, the current conflict happening there right now threatens to hurt the local wildlife, if not drive many species to extinction. That very fate may fall on one of the only mammals endemic to Ukraine: the sandy blind mole-rat.
Physical Description and Behavior
These little furry animals are only about 11 inches long. Their fur is the same light grayish color all over their bodies. They are also herbivores, eating exclusively plant life that is local to the area, generally underground roots. They seem to prefer the taste of onions.
Fun fact: The sandy blind mole-rat spends almost all of their lives underground. This explains why they have such reduced eyes. Their eyes do technically exist, but due to the lack of need for them, they have not been selected for during their later evolution.
They become sexually mature in their second year, and during this time, start giving birth to 3 to 4 young annually. They give birth in the late spring, and then after just a month, the young become independent. That said, a lot of this data is collected from members in captivity, so it might be somewhat different as compared to individuals in the wild.
Habitat and Location
This species is considered to be endangered according to the IUCN Red List.
Afforestation, or the creation of a forest in a location not known for forests, might seem like a good idea for many people when it comes to carbon capture. However, this causes its own form of habitat destruction and is currently the largest threat to the existence of the sandy blind mole-rat. There are believed to only be 15,000 to 20,000 individuals left in the wild, and their population is believed to be on the decline.
The data for this species comes from assessments done in 2008, so it does not take into account more recent events, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and how that can impact the well-being and existence of this vulnerable species.
They live in steppe regions in the southern tip of Ukraine, burrowing under the sand for protection.
If you want to see this little guy in action, eating some surface plants, check out the video linked below:
Slava Ukraini! - R. Finley