Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Giant African Pouched Rat

The other day, one boy came to our gate selling a male giant pouched rat and 3 babies. All for $5. This was a steal as in the states they go for up to $50. 
I asked where the mother of the babies were and he said he ate her yesterday. He was keeping them in a corner of his hut where he was feeding them peanuts, fish and casavah everyday. He was raising them to eat, but school fees were more of a priority, so he brought them to me.
The male, which you see above, is still not full grown. He can grow twice as big with a good diet. 
I have called him Bob, and he is very playful and curious not like the regular rats we have around the farm. Here is some quick info from Wikipedia on the rodent: 

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. It 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).
The Gambian pouched rat has very poor eyesight and so depends on its senses of smell and hearing. Its name comes from the large, hamster-like pouches in its cheeks. It is not a true rat but is part of a uniquely African branch of muroid rodents. It typically weighs between 1 and 1.4 kilograms (2.2 and 3.1 lb). In its native Africa, this pouched rat lives in colonies of up to twenty, usually in forests and thickets, but also commonly in termite mounds. It is omnivorous, feeding on vegetables,insects, crabs, snails, and other items, but apparently preferring palm fruits and palm kernels.
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. It has been known to stuff its pouches so full of date palm nuts so as to be hardly able to squeeze through the entrance of its burrow. The burrow consists of a long passage with side alleys and several chambers, one for sleeping and the others for storage. The Gambian pouched rat reaches sexual maturity at 5–7 months of age. It has up to four litters every nine months, with up to six offspring in each litter. Males are territorial and tend to be aggressive when they encounter one another.
In Africa, it is routinely eaten as bushmeat.

I will keep bob and 2 of the babies for fun. Maybe I can teach them some tricks or even bread them. The other baby will be going down to Lusaka with me by then end of the month to Munda Wanga, There he will be with other pouched rats.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

African Genet and our Vervet Monkey!

This month I saved a Genet which is like a wild cat that lives in the trees.

  Some villagers were selling him for $10 so I got him. If I hadn't bought him they would have sold him to merchants or witch doctors in the village because it is believed Genets are 'good medicine'.

 He was in a bad state after being carried around in a sack with both his hands and feet bound. When I cut his ropes off and put him in a large cage, he just flopped around and couldn't walk. Plus he was disoriented so much that his eyes kept looking from left to right every second like he was dizzy. This condition went on for a few days until he normalized.
  I gave him fresh water and a rat everyday along with some fruit and cat food. He especially enjoyed eating the rats and would leap on them with incredible speed. After a week he seemed back to himself.

 I had planned on a trip to Lusaka this week with my car, so I put him in a small chicken carrier, and brought him to a place called Munda Wanga. This is a place where animals can be treated and live in a great environment. Plus after a special process they will be taken back to the wild to be free again.

 While I was there, I wanted to see if my vervet monkey, Kanono was still around. I went to the monkey area and saw a bunch of monkeys on a tree and I called out "Kanono". Kanono means Small in the local language. To my surprise, one monkey jumped down from the tree and galloped over to the fence and yes, it was my friend Kanono.

I could have cried. It was a beautiful experience that I cannot describe. All the memories came back when I used to lay in my hammock in his habitat and he would come over and groom my head and arms then lie down and take a nap with me.

After I let him groom my hair, he pressed his body to the fence signalling to me that it was his turn. Here in the picture on the right you can see him doing so.

 He is still on the list to be taken to the wild with his new group that he has accepted as his family. But in the meantime, he is in a very large enclosure with food and water, so I am very pleased with his care.

  I will check on his welfare again next month when I go down to Lusaka for more business. He is due to be released in October.