Status: Near Threatened
Description: Mole rats have short light brown fur covering their cylindrical-shaped bodies. Their loose skin allows them to easily shake off dirt and turn around in their narrow burrows. Mole rats have large heads with small eyes and poor eyesight, but they can sense the Earth's magnetic field to help them navigate their burrows. Their large incisors are constantly growing. Mole rats' streamlined bodies and short limbs allow them to move easily backwards and forwards in their narrow burrows. Stiff hairs on their hind feet and tails help them grip the soil while moving around.
The Zambian mole-rat is a species of rodent in the family Bathyergidae that was officially discovered in 2006. It is found only in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Fun Facts !
The Zambian mole rat is endemic to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, meaning that it is not found anywhere else in the world.
Ecology and Behaviour
The Zambian mole rat is a herbivore and its diet consists mainly of tubers, grasses and roots. They also feed on invertebrates. It is a social animal and lives in colonies of up to 20 individuals. Colonies are typically made up of a single breeding queen and her offspring. The Zambian mole rat are seasonally reproductive and breeds once a year and the gestation period is about 100 days. Females give birth to litters of 2-4 pups. Just one female gives birth after a gestation period of about 100 days to a litter of 2 to 4 young, weaned after 35 days. Zambian mole rats have been found to be more social than other mole rat species. Their tunnels connect to neighbouring colonies which enables them to socialise and possibly find new mates and to also steal their neighbour's food. In one study, four colonies were linked together by tunnels spanning over 7kms. Zambian mole rats are very social, living in family colonies consisting of a single breeding pair and their non-breeding offspring. They remain with their parents, foraging and helping to maintain the family burrow. These ‘eusocial’ family colonies are similar in social structure to termites and honeybees.
They are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List) as Near Threatened. There is thought to be a continuous decline in their numbers. This is due to over harvesting for food in urban areas and because they are considered as pests in gardens and on agricultural land. The Zambian mole rat plays an important role in the Zambian ecosystem by helping to aerate the soil and control insect populations.
Distribution and Habitat
Zambian mole rats live in underground burrows that can be up to 10 meters long and 2 meters deep with tunnels that spread outward for several kilometers.
Interaction with humans
They are usually killed by humans who consider them as pests on their land leading to their steady decrease in population.
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