The kangaroo rat: back from extinction

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Two San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) researchers found an individual of the San Quintín kangaroo rat (Dipodomys gravipes) when they were in the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve conducting routine monitoring of small mammal communities. Finding this species, which was thought to be extinct since 1986, led to conduct an expedition to look for the kangaroo rat. 

During January and February 2018, members from Terra Peninsular and researchers from The Nat conducted a monitoring to look for the kangaroo rat inside the Valle Tranquilo Nature Reserve, located in El Rosario. 

It was on this nature reserve where the “K-Rat team” found the first individuals. This achievement encouraged the group to look for the kangaroo rat inside the Monte Ceniza Nature Reserve in San Quintín, and they found it as well! 

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What does finding the kangaroo rat mean?

The kangaroo rat might be a small species with a narrow distribution in western Baja California, but rediscovering it represents a worldwide victory for conservation!

Why? Because climate change and habitat loss are increasing the number of extinct species. Finding the kangaroo rat within two nature reserves certified as areas voluntarily destined for conservation by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp) is a positive evidence of the success of these protected areas in Mexico.  

Now, thanks to a joint conservation effort, the Valle Tranquilo and Monte Ceniza nature reserves represent a safe habitat for the kangaroo rat; and therefore, they are priority areas for conservation. 

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What’s next…

Together, The Nat, Terra Peninsular, and environmental institutions and authorities will work on an appropriate conservation plan to protect the kangaroo rat and its habitat. 

Protecting these nature reserves is essential to ensure the survival of an endemic species such as the kangaroo rat. 

How can you be part of this project?

Terra Peninsular is a non-profit organization, this means that all of our projects are possible thanks to the donations we receive from friends and supporters. 

We need your support to continue protecting the nature reserves of Monte Ceniza and Valle Tranquilo.

What we know about the kangaroo rat

The first description of the San Quintín kangaroo rat (Dipodomys gravipes) was made in 1925 by Laurence M. Huey (1892–1963), an American zoologist. At that time, there were two large colonies of this kangaroo rat, but since then the area they occupied has been largely converted to agriculture. 

Prior to this rediscovery and despite active searches and monitoring, specimens of the San Quintín kangaroo rat had not been found since 1986. In 2013, a group of researchers from CIBNOR and Terra Peninsular led by Evelyn Ríos conducted a monitoring to find the kangaroo rat in Valle Tranquilo, but didn’t succeed at it.  https://vimeo.com/77523430

The San Quintín kangaroo rat is endemic to Mexico, where it is known only to exist in western Baja California. It is a nocturnal species and lives in burrows with multiple entrances that shares with numerous other animals.

Distribución rata canguro de San Quintín

The San Quintín kangaroo rat (Dipodomys gravipes) is a species of rodent in the family Heteromyidae. This is a large species of kangaroo rat with head-and-body lengths to 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) and beyond, and weights in excess of 100 grams (3.5 ounces). The species is related to, and very similar in appearance to, the Dulzura kangaroo rat (Dipodomys simulans), but the San Quintín kangaroo rat is considerably larger and heavier with a thicker tail.

La imagen tiene un atributo ALT vacío; su nombre de archivo es Rata-canguro-de-San-Quintín-y-otras-especies.png

This particular species of kangaroo rat loves to kick and can kick its way out of your hands pretty easily. It is surprisingly feisty compared to its kangaroo rat cousins. Mammalogist Scott Tremor was amazed when the first large male kicked its way free of his experienced grip. The front legs are small and are used for manipulating food and cleaning the cheek pouches. The tail is longer than the body and provides balance while jumping and is used as a prop when stationary. 

The rediscovery of the San Quintín kangaroo rat will enable scientist to learn more about this specie of which we know very little about. 

Just like any other species, we should care about the kangaroo rat because it contributes with the ecosystem stability and health. 

Read all about the researchers’ experience during their quest to find the San Quintín kangaroo rat on the April’s issue of Mediterranews, Terra Peninsular’s newsletter! The article was written by Jorge Andrade and Enrique Alfaro from Terra Peninsular and researchers Sula Vanderplank and Scott Tremor from The Nat.

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