Mys­tery of rare vis­i­tor

The Rep - - NEWS - CHUX FOURIE

A MOST un­usual vis­i­tor turned up at Madeira Home last week­end – a cane rat.

Res­i­dent Gail Hart­ley found the an­i­mal dead in the drive­way at the home and at first did not know what it was. It had ob­vi­ously been in­jured, prob­a­bly by dogs, and had es­caped into the grounds where it died.

The Smithers Mam­mals of South­ern Africa de­scribes cane rats as “sim­i­lar in size to rab­bits, stock­ily built with coarse, spiny hair. The ears are rounded and al­most hid­den by hair. The muz­zle is blunt and has a pad in front of the nos­trils.” Its clos­est rel­a­tive is the por­cu­pine. Adult males may weigh as much as 4.5kg, but some­times reach more than 7kg, while they can be fat­tened up to 9kg in cap­tiv­ity.

In many parts of Africa they are an im­por­tant and valu­able source of pro­tein, but they are con­sid­ered agri­cul­tural pests. They thrive in ce­real crops and sugar cane.

Their nat­u­ral habi­tat is gen­er­ally reed beds or tall grass near wa­ter in the wet­ter or swampy parts of the coun­try and they swim well.

So how did this one get to Madeira? Was it do­mes­ti­cated? If you have any idea where this one came from, please con­tact chuxf@ti­soblack­star.co.za or call 045- 839 4040.

Pic­ture: CHUX FOURIE

FAR FROM HOME: This cane rat was found dead in Madeira Home’s grounds, far from its nat­u­ral habi­tat

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