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Rare giant rat that cracks coconuts with its teeth caught on camera for the first time

Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Solomon Islands National University captured 95 images of the super rare Vangunu giant rat, proving for the first time that the critically endangered rodent is still alive on Vangunu, a part of the Solomon Islands.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Solomon Islands National University captured 95 images of the super rare Vangunu giant rat, proving for the first time that the critically endangered rodent is still alive on Vangunu, a part of the Solomon Islands.

An ultra-rare super rodent that could grow to the size of a baby and crack coconuts with its teeth has been captured on camera for the first time.

The Vangunu giant rat, or Uromys vika is one of the world's rarest rodents and is only known to live on Vangunu, apart of the Solomon Islands.

University of Melbourne and Solomon Islands National University researchers captured images of the rodent that for years had only been discovered by the remains of one in 2017, according to a Nov. 20 article in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

However, there was no proof that the species were still alive. The local Indigenous people on the island were adamant that the rare rodent still lived there.

“For decades anthropologists and mammalogists alike were aware of this knowledge, but periodic efforts to scientifically identify and document this species were fruitless,” Tyrone Lavery of the School of Biosciences at the University of Melbourne, and a lead author on the paper said in a press release.

With the help of the local Indigenous population, researchers were able to set out traps and cameras to try and capture images of the species.

They put out glass oil lamps filled with sesame oil, and were able to capture 95 images of four different animals- one male and three females.

'Twice the size of a common rat'

Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Solomon Islands National University captured 95 images of the super rare Vangunu giant rat, proving for the first time that the critically endangered rodent is still alive on Vangunu, a part of the Solomon Islands.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Solomon Islands National University captured 95 images of the super rare Vangunu giant rat, proving for the first time that the critically endangered rodent is still alive on Vangunu, a part of the Solomon Islands.

While these are the first images to document the species researchers still have a lot to learn about the new species. But they for sure know that this species of rodents is much bigger than even the fiercest New York City subway rat you might encounter.

According to the press release, this "rare giant rat is at least twice the size of a common rat, is tree-dwelling and reportedly can chew through coconuts with its teeth."

"The rodents were irrefutably identified as U. vika by their large body size, long tails, and the presence of very short ears," the paper read.

Rare coconut-cracking giant rat is endangered species

The rare rat is considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. The rat, which is the first new rodent species to be discovered on the Solomon Islands in 80 years has seen a loss of it's habitat due to logging.

“Capturing images of the Vangunu giant rat for the first time is extremely positive news for this poorly known species,” Lavery said.

“This comes at a critical juncture for the future of Vangunu’s last forests – which the community of Zaira have been fighting to protect from logging for 16 years."

Lavery added that if logging continues, this species risks going instinct.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Solomon Islands National University captured 95 images of the super rare Vangunu giant rat, proving for the first time that the critically endangered rodent is still alive on Vangunu, a part of the Solomon Islands.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Solomon Islands National University captured 95 images of the super rare Vangunu giant rat, proving for the first time that the critically endangered rodent is still alive on Vangunu, a part of the Solomon Islands.

“We thank the community of Zaira for unwavering commitment to conserve their forests and reefs in the face of continuous attempts to undermine this commitment, and for their support of this research,” Lavery said.

“We hope that these images of U. vika will support efforts to prevent the extinction of this threatened species, and help improve its conservation status.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rare giant coconut-cracking rat caught on camera for first time ever