Hydromys chrysogaster M: 231-345mm F: 245-370mm
RAT FUR WAS once a fashion item, and to this end Australian water-rats were trapped in large numbers during the 1930s and ’40s. To meet demand for capes and cloaks, one furrier firm even proposed rat farms for Tasmania’s swamps.
Trapping intensified during World War II when muskrat furs stopped arriving from the USA. Water-rats served well, being large with thick fur to insulate them when they dive for fish, frog, waterbird, mussel and crayfish prey. Today this rodent is protected. Water-rat is a bland name for such a dramatic hunter, and many nature-lovers would prefer to see an Aboriginal name, rakali, embraced instead. In Melbourne, rakali can be seen at dusk around St Kilda Pier and on the Elwood Canal footpath. They feed mainly at night, at ‘tables’ – rocks or logs where they dismember mussels and yabbies and abandon the hard parts.