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What is a Gambian Rat?

Gambian Rat

Currently studies are being conducted in various countries about the best ways to train these rats, and determine their limits and abilities to detecting mines.

The Gambian pouched rat has very poor eyesight and so depends on its senses of smell and hearing. It is not a true rat but is part of an African branch of muroid rodents. In its native Africa, the pouched rat lives in colonies of up to twenty, usually in thickets and forests, but also commonly in termite mounds.

Unlike domestic rats, it has cheek pouches like a hamster. These cheek pouches allow it to gather up several kilograms of nuts per night for storage underground. The Gambian pouched rat reaches sexual maturity at 5– 7 months of age.

Ability to detect land mines and tuberculosis by scent.  

A Tanzanian social enterprise founded by two Belgians, APOPO, trains Gambian pouched rats to detect land mines and tuberculosis with their highly developed sense of smell. The rats are cheaper to train than mine-detecting dogs; a rat requires $7,300 for nine months of training, whereas a dog costs about $25,000 for training.

A Gambian pouched rat killed in the Florida Keys.

This outsized African rodent is also believed to be responsible for the 2003 outbreak of monkeypox in the United States, after spreading it to prairie dogs which were purchased as pets. In 2003, the United States’ CDC and FDA issued an order preventing the importation of the rodents following the first reported outbreak of monkeypox. Around 20 individuals were affected.

The Gambian pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus), also known as the African giant pouched rat, is a nocturnal pouched rat of the giant pouched rat genus Cricetomys, and is among the largest muroids in the world, growing up to about 0.9 metres (3 ft) long including their tail which makes up half their length. The Gambian pouched rat has very poor eyesight and so depends on its senses of smell and hearing. The Gambian pouched rat reaches sexual maturity at 5– 7 months of age. A Tanzanian social enterprise founded by two Belgians, APOPO, trains Gambian pouched rats to detect land mines and tuberculosis with their highly developed sense of smell. The rats are cheaper to train than mine-detecting dogs; a rat requires $7,300 for nine months of training, whereas a dog costs about $25,000 for training.

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1) [1] Scientific classification e.
Kingdom: Animalia.
Phylum: Chordata.
Class: Mammalia.
Order: Rodentia.
Family: Nesomyidae.
Genus: Cricetomys.
Species: C. gambianus.
Binomial name.
Cricetomys gambianus.
Waterhouse, 1840.

The Gambian pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus), also known as the African giant pouched rat, is a nocturnal pouched rat of the giant pouched rat genus Cricetomys, and is among the largest muroids in the world, growing up to about 0.9 metres (3 ft) long including their tail which makes up half their length. It is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, ranging geographically from Senegal to Kenya and from Angola to Mozambique (although it is absent from much of the DR Congo, where Emin’s pouched rat is present) and in altitude from sea level to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). 1]

 

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