Don't Kill Gambian Pouch Rats! Recruit Them
Grassy Key, one of the Florida Keys, has been having a problem with giant African pouch rats, aka Gambian pouch rats. Apparently released around 10 years ago by a breeder, the 3-foot rats have invaded the island, and the state is worried that if the rats reach the Florida mainland crops will be destroyed.
MyFox Memphis reported today that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) is trying to eliminate the species because they reproduce so rapidly. According to Wikipedia, an adult African pouch rat can have up to four litters every nine months.
McKinley Greenlaw suggests that there are enough pythons on the mainland that the FWCC doesn't have to worry about the rats...
But annihilation by man or beast is not called for. The giant African rat, with its pouchy cheeks resembling a hamster, is easily trained. So easily trained with food as treats that in its native Africa, the giant rat is used to detect land mines and tuberculosis. In Belgium, one of the countries where they are trained, the African giant pouched rat is called a heroRAT!
Unlike canines, rats don't become too attached to a single trainer, which is a big plus. What if the U.S. military were to train the Gambian rats to detect land mines in Afghanistan or elsewhere? That beats spending money on drones or using larger animals; don't worry, the rats are too light to set off a a land mine.
Additionally, in Africa, the pouch rats are trained to detect tuberculosis in people and animals. Who knows? They may be trained to detect other illnesses or select illegal drugs.
Let's not be so ready to eradicate a species from our environment. If they need control, try selectively using birth control pellets. They've been used to control pigeons.
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