Cat-sized African rats survive in Florida
Gambian pouch rats have been found in Florida's Grassy Key despite efforts to eradicate them. Officials worry that the voracious rats, which grow to nine pounds, might wipe out some crops and upset the delicate ecological balance if they manage to reach the Florida mainland.
But a breed of giant, Gambian rats have been rapidly reproducing in the Florida Keys despite a decade-long effort to wipe them out. KeysNet reports the invasive, African native species first began showing up between 1999-2001 after a local exotic animal breeder released eight of the rats into the wild.
"We thought we had them whipped as of 2009," said Scott Hardin, exotic species coordinator for Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We think they have not moved far but they clearly reproduced," he said.
The rodents, officially known as the Gambian pouched rat, are the largest known breed of rats in the world. They can grow up to three feet in length and weigh as much as nine pounds. Wildlife officials fear that if the large-sized rodents make it to the Florida mainland, they could devastate local crops if they reach the Florida mainland.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working with Florida officials to wipe out the rodents, and there are only an estimate few dozen at large, but they can reproduce quickly and do so only five months after being born. After producing a litter, the Gambian rat only has to wait another nine months before having another litter, bearing up to six babies at a time.
Full Photo Album
|Liveleak on Facebook|