Scientists have captured the first photos ever of an endangered giant rat species found only on one small island in the South Pacific. This rare rodent is called the Vangunu giant rat, because it lives in the treetops of the forest on Vangunu Island in the Solomon Islands.

Up until now, scientists only knew about this rat from one specimen collected years ago, but they had never seen the rat alive in the wild.

A team from the University of Melbourne in Australia, the Solomon Islands National University, and villagers from Zaira village on Vangunu Island worked together to learn more.

They set up trail cameras deep in the forest and, after weeks of waiting, the cameras finally captured photos of the rare rats, although scientists think there are only about four individual rats left.

The photos show the rats are at least twice as big as normal rats and they are able to crack open coconuts with their strong teeth to eat.

The Zaira villagers have known about these big rats living in their forest for a long time, so they helped the scientists find the best places to set up the cameras. Without the villagers’ knowledge of the forest, the scientists may never have seen the rats.

The photos are very important because the forest home of the Vangunu giant rat could soon be cut down. As only a small area of primary or original forest remains, if the last forest is logged, the rare rats will not survive.

Their photos provide proof that saving the forest is critical to prevent their extinction.

The scientists and villagers hope these first photos of the living Vangunu giant rat will help protect its forest home and ensure this one-of-a-kind species survives for future generations.


Sources

The University of Melbourne | Lavery, T. H., Holland, A., Jino, N., Judge, A., Judge, H., Onga, P., & Sese, K. (2023). Vangunu giant rat (Uromys vika) survives in the Zaira Community Resource Management Area, Solomon Islands. Ecology and Evolution, 13, e10703. doi.org/10.1002/ece3.10703


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