Scientific Name: Arvicanthis niloticus
Common Name: Nile Rat
Description: A vole-like rat with a stout body, coarse
fur and short legs. Its fifth toe is reduced but usable. It ranges in colour from
buff to olive brown to dark gray-brown, sometimes with a dorsal stripe. The fur
on the belly is usually lighter in colour than that on the rest of the body. The
fur appears grizzled due the dark tips of the ends of the hairs.
Distribution: ranges throughout most of Africa, with
the greatest concentration in East Africa as well as along the Nile river.
Difference in Sex:
Average Weight: 50 to 120 g.
Habitat: Savannah grasslands; however, it can also
survive in a desert climate, provided that the area receives some form of
Habits: They are a gregarious species, residing in
burrows under grass patches with varying numbers of conspecifics, depending on
the overall population density. The animals use "runways" to travel from grazing
patch to grazing patch and back to the colony. These runways take advantage of
natural formations of the ground and are smooth, dirt trails that resemble
miniature hiking paths. The rodents will clear the paths of small obstructions
and keep the surrounding grass clipped out of the way. The Nile Rat is agile and
quick despite its slightly pudgy appearance and seems to be able to return to
its home range when released within a quarter-mile of where it is captured. Home
range size is variable, ranging from 37 to 86m for males, and 38 to 47m for
females, depending on whether the animals were studied during high density
periods or low density periods, respectively.
Main feeding time: The Nile Rat is a diurnal
creature and is most active in the morning, before the sun is overhead, but also
has periods of evening activity and some activity during the night hours.
Gestation: 18 days
Number of young at birth: 5-6 young, each weighing from
3-6 grams; these are weaned at about 3 weeks.
Age: up to 6 years
Diet: mostly grains, seeds and grass shoots. It can,
however, subsist on other fare, such as insects and fruits
Enemies: carnivorous mammals and birds, such as
mongooses, eagles, leopards, wild cats, foxes and jackals.
Interesting facts: Is sometimes used by humans as a
source of food, but can also carry the bubonic plague.