Madagascar giant jumping rat
This large, nocturnal, forest-dwelling rodent is threatened with extinction in the near future because of its limited distribution and loss of habitat. Giant jumping rats had never been kept in captivity before Gerald Durrell brought five to Jersey from Madagascar in 1990. The carefully managed captive breeding programme for these Endangered rats has successfully established a ‘safety net’ population, which provides a safeguard against its disappearance in the wild.
The giant jumping rat is the largest rodent in Madagascar – it is about the size of a rabbit. It has long, narrow, pointed ears, which are not covered in fur, and a thick, muscular, sparsely furred tail. The short, dense fur on its body varies in colour from grey-brown to reddish brown on its upperparts and is creamy-white on its feet and underparts. Young rats have paler fur than adults. The back feet of giant jumping rats, as their name suggests, are adapted for jumping – they are large in comparison to the front feet, like those of a kangaroo.
Durrell was the first conservation organisation to breed these mammals and has also coordinated an international effort with 16 other institutions currently caring for this species. So far 12 of these have been able to breed it: a major success!