ROSS GORDON COOPER
24 Tay Road, Vainona, P.O. Borrowdale, Harare, Zimbabwe
Telephone: (263) (4) 882910
E-mail: [email protected]
The giant rat (Cricetomys gambianus) is the largest indigenous rat species occurring in Zimbabwe. It is distributed in Mashonaland and the eastern parts of the country. They are commonly seen just before sundown when they move in search of food. Urban development and gardens have provided a suitable habitat for this species and they are often seen in the cities. They live in colonies of up to twenty strong commonly in termite mounds.
In this part of the world, the wild varieties are often either regarded as a source of food to the indigenous people or as a pest. So keeping them as pets is rarely seen. There is certainly no thriving pet shop trade in this species in Zimbabwe, in contrast to that of domesticated rats and mice.
I developed an interest in the giant rat in my early years at high school when a friend told me of his rearing of a giant rat pup. Due to its early exposure to humans, it was very tame. It used to sleep in the bottom drawer of his desk - I hope the wood was re-inforced! Thus to keep this rat in Zimbabwe, it is important to capture it when young so that it is easier
to tame. This is what I did with my two.
I have a male and a female rat. They are of approximately the same age. During their keep, I have observed the following characteristics in their behaviour since capturing and taming them:
In conclusion, I feel that if someone wants to keep these rats, it should be with the realization that they are still instinctively a wild animal that has to be tamed. This takes constant effort. The rewards are great though and I am thinking of taking my rats out on a lead one day!
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