A mystery rat makes an appearance


This dry season we had been exploring new set areas in Kaeng Krachan National Park with smaller video cameras (bushnell type camera traps) to see what resident species occurred and what species with larger territories might be passing through.

To our surprise we had noticed that two of our sets had quite a high incidence of a long tailed forest rat. The videos are great for seeing what animals enter the set areas and how they react but their image quality made it impossible to define any features of the animals other than a) rat and b) long tail.

We were intrigued by the creatures and considered re-rigging the sets with stills cameras to get a closer look at these small mammals.

This was a gamble because when the set is rigged for small mammals it means that we forsake any pictures of transitory larger mammals that may be passing through the area as they would simply overfill the frame. We procrastinated at length, as it was the possibility of pictures of the larger iconic mammal species that had brought us to these new locations.

We decided it was an opportunity we should not miss, as we had never witnessed so many hits in one of our sets from these mystery rodents and we knew this might be temporary opportunity. Movement of mammals in the forest is driven by food, water and reproduction and as we were now in the height of the dry season we believed it was possible the sheer volume of camera trap hits could be linked to food foraging, a pattern that could change as soon as the forest started to dampen again.

So we hastily rigged two sets specifically to get a closer view at our mystery rodents.

Four weeks later we had a great collection of images and with the very kind help of Muridea specialist Uraiporn Pimsai from the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Natural History Museum we had an ID.

Our mystery nocturnal rodent is the Long-tailed Giant Rat, Leopoldamys sabanus, also known as the Noisy Rat.

A common species by all accounts, but the camera traps had allowed us to succeed in getting great natural behavior close up shots of the species as it darted around our sets hunting for our fruit stashes.

The Long-tailed Giant Rat can be found in lowland, hill and lower montane forest throughout Thailand and in many parts of Southeast Asia, typically up to elevations of around 1200 metres.

The magnificent tail is scaly with short bristles and is markedly paler on its underside, can be over 40 cm long.

The Long-tailed Giant Rat is mainly a ground dweller, however is very well adapted for climbing and is semi-arboreal. It nests in tree holes and burrows, and feeds on fruits, vegetation and insects.

{gallery}Long Tailed Giant Rat{/gallery}

The experience has really made us reconsider our philosophy re-camera trapping and we may dedicate at least two sets to small mammals from now on. Who would have though a rat could be so cute?

Family : Muridae 
Species : Leopoldamys sabanus


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onflipflops replied the topic: #2754 15 Mar 2015 18:13
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Paul T replied the topic: #2755 16 Mar 2015 07:26
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olliewearn replied the topic: #3467 03 Mar 2016 00:40
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