Malagasy giant rat - frontal closeup, Kirindy Reserve, Madagascar
Here it is, the iconic Malagasy giant rat, a very rare and endangered mammal, Madagascar's largest rodent. They are restricted to a tiny range (Menabe region, about 20km²) with Kirindy being their main safe haven. Almost everything that is known about this nocturnal species comes from Kirindy's research.
Despite their rarity, there's good odds to see some at Kirindy. One of their burrows is close to the reception and parking area. Several hours after sunset, they exit their burrow and make way to their territory which they obsessively mark with urine, feces, and scent gland secretions. They work as a couple, one of few rodent species in the world being sexually monogamous.
Despite looking like a tiny kangaroo, they don't jump. They walk. Which is a ridiculous sight, like a blob with tiny legs.
Because of their territorial nature, you can pretty much count on them to be in the same place every single night. They are absolutely terrified of light and will immediately flee the scene when shining a torch on them. The tactic to use is to therefore move close to them in full darkness, and anticipate the brief moment in which they are lit up. This still usually fails but once every few tries, they will be confused for a few seconds, stand up on their feet wondering where to go, and in that tiny moment, we managed to photographed them.
Here's a video that makes me look like an idiot for contradicting all the behavior I just described:
I do think I can explain it. That video is from 2015, when they still used the practice of luring them with rice. The individual on the video probably got used to that and became less fearful of people and light. The luring with food is unnecessary, they will come in any case.
The Malagasy giant rat, also known as the votsota or votsovotsa, is a nesomyid rodent found only in the Menabe region of Madagascar. It is an endangered species due to habitat loss, slow reproduction, and limited range Pairs are monogamous and females bear only one or two young per year. It is the only extant species in the genus ''Hypogeomys''; another species, ''Hypogeomys australis'', is known from subfossil remains a few thousand years old.