A new species.
Another new, exotic species has arrived at the Zoo in Wrocław. It is a fruit-eating arboreal white-tailed antsangy (white-tailed rat). The species comes from Madagascar and at the zoo it lives in the Madagascar pavilion.
It is hard to believe that in the 21st century we still know so little about the world around us. New species of animals and plants are constantly being discovered, and we still know almost nothing about many them. One of the least known is the white-tailed antsangy. As a species, it was described as early as 1875 by Dr. Albert Günther, to be later forgotten. It seems that it was only the progressive degradation of Madagascar's nature that caused interest in preventing extinction of this and other endemics of the Red Island.
Only recently zoos began to breed Brachytarsomys albicauda. In Europe there are 6 sites involved in breeding this species-Chester, London, Manchester, Pilsen, Jihlava and Wrocław. With 49 individuals between them, they also conduct research, because little is known about the antsangy-even how many years it lives.
- The antsangy lives in groups in rain forests that are being massively cut down. Therefore, it is an endangered species because it loses its place to live. That is why we undertook the conservation breeding and its coordination in Europe. (...) It is a very interesting species, but we know very little about its biology. So, whatever we learn about them, we will try to publish. - says Radosław Ratajszczak, president of the Wrocław zoo.
The white-tailed antsangy occurs in tropical and subtropical forests all over eastern Madagascar, also in the mountains, up to 1,875 meters above sea level. It is a species dependent on the environment in which it lives, so it has very little chance of adapting to changes caused by humans. Antsangys or white-tailed rats are arboreal and nocturnal. They build nests in tree hollows, about 2.5 m from the ground, less often in holes at the base of trees.
They have stocky bodies typical for rodents, covered with brown-gray hair. Adults are 50 cm long (including the tail) and weigh up to 285 g. They have short snouts that make them look a little peculiar.
Their claws are strong, sharp and curved. They have elongated fifth toes on the hind feet for better gripping and very long, flexible tails for balance – these characteristic indicate a specialization for arboreal life.
The behavior of this species hasn’t been well documented. It is known that when disturbed, they appear at the entrance to the hollow and chatter to scare the intruder away. However, it is not known why. This could be to defend the territory or the young.
Very little is known about the reproduction of this species. It is known that there are usually 6 pups in the litter. The observations so far suggest that it is monogamous and the male stays near the nest after offspring are born to defend it while the female takes care of the young.
White-tailed rats are frugivorous, although their physiological features suggest a leaf-eating diet. They also gladly eat seeds, grains and nuts.
They are considered gardeners of the forest and biodiversity guardians. This role is extremely important for the proper functioning of the ecosystem, as it allows other species to survive as well.
Unfortunately, deforestation in Madagascar threatens this species. The ranges of occurrence are shrinking and the animals are disappearing from subsequent areas of their previous occurrence. Protected areas are an opportunity, but these are only small patches of original habitats. Hunting is an additional threat, because its meat is considered to be as tasty as lemurs. Locally, entire populations are extinct as a result of diseases brought in by domestic rodents. Hence the need to start breeding in zoos.
- Rats, or rodents in general, are not well perceived. In fairy tales, they usually have negative traits assigned. Meanwhile, they are neither good nor bad, they are simply crucial. We want to convince people that each animal species has a role to play in order for our planet to function. It is usually these small, inconspicuous and often ugly animals that are the basis of the functioning of ecosystems. They spread seeds, fertilize the soil, clean up debris and feed other species. Let's get to know them and appreciate them, because they need protection just like a tiger, elephant or giraffe. - adds Radosław Ratajszczak.
Six white-tailed rats came to Wrocław from Chester in September this year. After acclimatization, they settled in the Madagascar pavilion, in the nocturnal exhibit.
By choosing the special SAVING WILDLIFE ticket each visitor contributes to the protection of animals in nature. Each donated złoty from the sale of these tickets goes to vetted organizations that operate in the place of occurrence of endangered species. This money helps to maintain the reserves and sanctuaries as well as rehabilitation centers for animals that are later released back to nature.