Using trained Pouched Rats to detect land mines: another victory for operant conditioning.
J. Appl. Behav. Anal. 44(2): 351–355. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2011.44-351
We used giant African pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) as land mine-detection animals in Mozambique because they have an excellent sense of smell, weigh too little to activate mines, and are native to sub-Saharan Africa, and therefore are resistant to local parasites and diseases. In 2009 the rats searched 93,400 m² of land, finding 41 mines and 54 other explosive devices. Humans with metal detectors found no additional mines. On average, the rats emitted 0.33 false alarm for every 100 m² searched, which is below the threshold given by International Mine Action Standards for accrediting mine-detection animals. These findings indicate that Cricetomys are accurate mine-detection animals and merit continued use in this capacity.
Rapid assessment for a new invasive species threat: the case of the Gambian giant pouched rat in Florida.
Wildlife Research 33: 439–448.
The Gambian giant pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus) is a large rodent that has established a breeding population in the Florida Keys. Should it successfully disperse to mainland Florida, it could continue spreading through much of North America where significant negative ecological and agricultural consequences could result. We rapidly developed the information for implementing an efficient and successful eradication program before dispersal to the mainland occurs. This included development of monitoring and indexing methods and their application to define the animal’s range, the development of baits attractive to Gambian giant pouched rats, efficacy testing of toxicants, and development of bait-delivery devices that exclude native animals. Gambian giant pouched rats appeared confined to the western two-thirds of Grassy Key, but have dispersed across a soil-filled causeway west to Crawl Key. We identified preferred habitat characteristics and potential dispersal pathways. We developed photographic and tracking tile methods for detecting and indexing Gambian giant pouched rats, both of which work well in the face of high densities of non-target species. We identified a commercial anticoagulant bait and we developed a zinc phosphide (an acute toxicant) bait matrix that were well accepted and effective for controlling Gambian giant pouched rats. We also developed a bait station for delivering toxic bait to Gambian giant pouched rats without risk to native species. We consider that the criteria are met for a successful eradication to commence.
Attempting to eradicate invasive Gambian giant pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) in the United States: lessons learned.
In: VEITCH, C. R., CLOUT, M. N. & Towns, D. R. (eds.). Island invasives: eradication and management: 131-134. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Gambian giant pouched rats (Cricetomys gambianus) are native to Africa, but they are popular pets in the United States. They caused a monkeypox outbreak in the Midwestern United States in 2003 in which 72 people were infected. A free-ranging population became established on the 400 ha Grassy Key in the Florida Keys, apparently after a release by a pet breeder. This rodent species is known to cause extensive crop damage in Africa and if it reaches the mainland US, many impacts, especially to the agriculture industry of Florida, can be expected. An apparently successful inter-agency eradication effort has run for just over three years. We discuss the strategy that has been employed and some of the difficulties encountered, especially our inability to ensure that every animal could be put at risk, which is one of the prime pre-requisites for successful eradication. We also discuss some of the recent research with rodenticides and attractants, using captive Gambian rats, that may help with future control and eradication efforts.