African Giant Pouched Rat [Cricetomys sp. Ansorgei]
The African Giant Pouched Rat is generally considered to be the Gambian Pouched Rat [Cricetomys gambianu] which has been separated as a species from the Southern Giant Pouched Rat.
The Giant African Rat has a long tail, which is bare with a white tip. The body is covered with buff-grey, relatively long fur whereas the under parts are slightly paler. Front hands are white. Face is characterised by long dark whiskers. An adult measures 750 mm from the nose to the tip of the tail, and the tail is about 410 mm long. An average male weighs about 1.3 kg and the female 1.2 kg. Small eyes are surrounded by a black eye-patch.
The African Giant Rat is an omnivorous rodent which feeds on a wide range of food items. Its diet includes insects, termites, fruit and vegetable matter. They have cheek pouches in which they carry food and other items intended for storage.
After a gestation period of 27 days, females give birth to litters of two to four altricial pups. The African Giant Rat breeds mostly during summer. Young first leave the nest to forage at the age of six weeks, and finally leave the nest at the age of three months.
The Giant Pouched Rats are strictly nocturnal and mostly solitary, except when breeding. The home range of adult males and female rats overlaps. The African Giant Rat is adapted to forests and forest scrub with a rainfall in excess of 800 mm per year.
Where they are found
There are a number of species in this African rodent genus, of which only Cricetomys ansorgei marginally occurs In South Africa. Its occurrence is restricted to the northern parts of the Northern Province.
The Giant Pouched Rats are trained to sniff out land mines in a number of countries in Africa. Easier to train than dogs, the rats are also less expensive to keep.
The Rats can become an infestation in areas where rubbish is strewn and left and there are reported incidents of these Giant Pouched Rats eating human babies and sleeping adults.