Meet The Broad-Toothed Rat: A Chubby-Cheeked Australian Rodent

Sep 23, 2022by Olivia Harper - F&F

A native Australian rat vulnerable to extinction and known for its chubby cheeks has been found at Victoria's Wilsons Promontory for the first time in 32 years! Yes, it has an unfortunate name in a culture that despises rodents — but please don’t panic! It’s not that type of rat. Let’s take a look.

Image: Zoos Victoria

The Broad-Toothed Rat Hasn’t Been Seen On The Promontory For 32 Years!

Meet this chubby-cheeked, inquisitive, broad-toothed rat! For the first time in 32 years, this animal, which is listed as vulnerable to extinction, has been found at Wilsons Promontory National Park!

This tiny rodent historically is found throughout south-eastern Australia, with its population declining due to the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires that tore through much of its habitat, as well as predation by cats and foxes, and habitat loss from an overabundance of grass-grazing animals.

It had not been seen in over three decades, and now, one has recently been tracked and trapped by researchers at the promontory before being released back into the wild. "It is a very exciting time," Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said.

Broad Toothed Rat On Site DiscoveryBroad Toothed Rat On Site Discovery

Image: Zoos Victoria

Scientists Managed To Track One Of The Rodents

These endangered rodents reside in many habitats, from coastal sites to the NSW alps, where they tunnel through native grasses to keep them warm in the snow. Their bright green droppings are the first indication of their existence, and that’s what Dr Phoebe Burns, a biologist at Zoos Victoria, found when she surveyed for the rats in the isthmus region.

She put out an aluminium box and caught one broad-toothed rat, which she weighed and measured and then put back in its grassy tunnel. The droppings were signs of more in the area!

“It’s the best news. The Prom is one of the places that we’d written off over the years and to find them hanging on there is really great,” Dr Phoebe Burns says.

Wilsons PromontoryWilsons Promontory

Image: Damien Tait / Unsplash

The Discovery Suggests Efforts To Keep Invasive Species Out Of The Area Are Working!

This discovery of the rat stresses the importance of conserving Wilsons Prom as a safe haven for endangered species, with a plan to turn 50,000 hectares of the park into a sanctuary!

Last year it was announced that Wilsons Prom would be transformed into a climate refuge and predator-free sanctuary for endangered wildlife. Eventually, a 10-kilometre predator-proof fence will be built across the Yanakie Isthmus — and this rat sighting could be a sign the reduction of invasive species at the Prom is succeeding.

“It’s going well. It’s a huge legacy conservation initiative,” Dr Mark Norman says. “This will be our opera house — a climate refuge sailing above the cool waters of Bass Strait.” How amazing is that?

What incredible news coming out of Victoria, Australia! We can’t wait to follow along the progress of what will be the country’s largest, best-protected sanctuary and refuge! We hope to see the population of the broad-toothed rat increase, alongside other endangered native species.

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