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African Giant Pouched Rats as invasive species

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African Giant Pouched Rats, Cricetomys gambianus, are native to sub-Sahara Africa but a small population in Florida is potentially an invasive species. …

African Giant Pouched Rats, Cricetomys gambianus, are native to sub-Sahara Africa but a small population in Florida is potentially an invasive species.
I briefly introduce the problems invasive species like this one can cause in the United States.

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  • 1. African Giant Pouched Rats as invasive species Danielle N. Lee Department of Zoology Oklahoma State University
  • 2. Problem with invasive species• Disrupt local ecology – Overconsumes local resources – Displaces and/or eliminates locals in similar guild/ecological niche – Introduces new diseases, parasites• New Human-Wildlife conflicts – Agriculture pests – Zoonoses
  • 3. Native habitat of African Pouched RatsThis is the field where I found and trapped Cricetomys summer 2012 in Morogoro, Tanzania.This habitat is very similar to that of Southern Florida where Cricetomys have been found bythe Florida Fish & Wildlife Authorities
  • 4. Wider view of the field site I used to trap and track African Pouched Rats, Summer 2012.Notice the open field in the foreground and the mixed woodlands in the back ground. Justbehind this thin strip of trees was a small ravine or river.
  • 5. My most successful trap,along the edge of the habitatof the open field and densetrees near a ravine (river).Just under the thick of trees isthe burrow I discovered whenreleasing animals from thetraps.The rats seemed to preferdense habitats that providedcover.I only captured animals in thecover or along the edge, neverin the open field.
  • 6. A burrow I discovered while trapping and tracking Cricetomys Summer 2012.
  • 7. Close up of the burrows created and used by African Pouched Rats. These are the burrowsof rats in an outside enclosure.
  • 8. Peterson et al. (2006)created a model predictingdistribution of AfricanPouched rats if they were toable to establish apopulation in the UnitedStates.Given that ecological nicheinfluences geographicalpotential and ecologicalbehavior of a species can beinvariant to communitycontext, these invasivedistribution models predictthat the rats would obey thesame ecological rules if theywere in a novel setting(Peterson et al. 2006).Florida and the SouthernUnited States would be idealhabitat for my rats.
  • 9. African Pouched rats are very large, but reports of their size has been exaggerated. Adultrats range in size of 1 – 1.4 kg and 67-74 cm long – that includes the tail. (Perry et al.2006). The largest rat I handled this summer was 1.7 kg and 80 cm long.
  • 10. They are also long-lived rodents, up to 7 years in captivity. Fecundity is reported to be high (up to 30 pups a year). However, my preliminary research indicates we know too little aboutthe reproductive biology of this species to say that.
  • 11. African Pouched Rats as Agriculture Pests Palm nuts and corn kernels from the cheek pouch of a rat I was handling Summer 2012.Star fruit from the orchard along thetrapping line I used to capture, markand recapture rats Summer 2012.
  • 12. As agriculture pests, rodents cause an estimated annual lost of 5-15% of corn which is ~$45million in crop and food loss in Tanzania alone (Stenseth et al. 2003).
  • 13. I use bananas as bait for my trapping efforts, but citrus and other tropical fruits are localcrops which are vulnerable to rodents. Florida, which has a similar ecology and orchard-agriculture industry could be devastated if the rats were to increase their numbers andextend their distribution.
  • 14. African Pouched Rats as Zoonosis• Infectious diseases that can be spread between species• Great public health concern for diseases that can be transmitted from animal to humans• Monkeypox• Lassa Fever• Leptospirosis
  • 15. Key ReferencesNative-range ecology and invasive potential of Cricetomys in North America.AT Peterson, M Papes, MG Reynolds, ND Perry, B Hanson, RL Regnery, CL Hutson, BMuizniek, IK Damon, DS Carroll. 2006. J Mammalogy, 87(3):427-432Rapid assessement for a new invasive species threat: the case of the Gambian giantpouched rat in Florida. R Engeman, JW Wollard, ND Perry, G Witmer, S Hardin, LBrashears, H Smith, B Muiznieks, B Constantin. 2006. Wildlife Research, 33:439-448Monkeypox zoonotic associations: insights from laboratory evaluation of animalsassociated with the multi-state US outbreak. CL Hutson, KN Lee, J Abel, DS Carroll, JMMontgomery, A Olson, Y Li, W Davidson, C Hughes, M Dillon, P Spurlock, JJKazmierczak, C Austin, L Miser, FE, Sorhage, J Howell, JP Davis, MG Rynolds, Z Braden,KL Karen, IK Damon, RL Regnery. 2007. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 76(4): 757-767New Invasive Species in Southern Florida: Gambian rat (Cricetomys gambianus). NDPerry, B Hanson, W Hobgood, RL Lopez, CR Okraska, K Karen, IK Damon, DS Carroll.2006. J Mammalogy, 87(2)262-264Mice, rats, and people: the bioeconomics of agriculture rodent pests. NC Stenseth, HLeirs, A Skonhoft, SA Davis, RP Pech, HP Andreassen, GR Singleton, M Lima, RSMachang’u, RH Makundi, Z Zhang, PR Bron, D Shi, X Wan. 2003. Front Ecol Environ, (7):367-375

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