Gambian Rats Invade the Florida KeysPublished April 13, 2012
Rats!! Gambian Rats that is!
According to Huffpost Miami another non-native animal species has invaded the Florida Keys. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are waging war against an outbreak of the oversize rodents which are native to Africa. The species was thought to have been eliminated years ago. Gambian rats can weigh in up to nine pounds or more; can grow up to three feet long - the size of an average house cat or small baby.
According to the FWC, Gambian rats began making their presence known in the Florida Keys between 1999 and 2001 after a breeder resident of the Keys released eight of the robust rodents, setting them free into the wild. Originally imported as pets from their native-land, following an outbreak of Monkey Pox, they were banned as furry companions in 2003.
In 2007 when a targeted campaign began to kill Gambian rats in the Keys, their bodies and fecal matter were tested for any indication of Monkey Pox infection. Fortunately none of the rats tested positive since a bite is a source of transmission of the disease.
But, in spite of a 10 year long attempt to eradicate the rats, the giant rodents have been breeding prolifically in the Florida Keys. Gambian rats can have 5 litters within 9 months, producing an average litter of 4-6 babies.
Scott Hardin, Exotic Species Coordinator for FWC said, "We thought we had them whipped as of 2009. We think they have not moved far but they clearly reproduced. In the early part of 2011, a resident e-mailed me and said he saw one of the rats. We were skeptical but went back and talked to people and [saw] there were rats that we missed."
In an attempt to rid the keys of the Gambia rat population, officials say they are planning to distribute another 200 traps using cantaloupe and peanut butter as bait.
To prevent unnecessary and dangerous invasions by animals not native to our local habitats, it is crucial for all exotic animal lovers to act responsibly. They should never be released under any circumstances, either accidentally or on purpose, into an ecosystem to which they are not native.
Instead, exotic animal owners should seek the advice and/or any necessary rehoming of these animals from wildlife experts, zoos and other appropriate resources.
Watch the video uploaded to YouTube by geobeats to learn more about the Florida Keys Gambian rat invasion.
Would you keep a Gambian pet rat? Share in a comment.