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Maned rat (Lophiomys imhausi) on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch

By Tom Butynski & Yvonne de Jong, Lolldaiga Hills Research Programme

The maned (or crested) rat Lophiomys imhausi is a distinctive, nocturnal, rodent present in scattered populations in woodlands and montane forests of northeast Africa from central Tanzania to east Sudan. Maned rats are herbivorous. They generally move slowly on the ground but are skilled tree climbers. When threatened, the maned rat parts the fur along its flanks exposing two lateral lines. The specialized, ‘wick-like’, fur of the lateral lines holds an anti-predator toxin that is applied by the maned rat; bark of the branches and roots of the poison arrow tree Acokanthera schimperi is gnawed and masticated and, together with saliva, slathered onto the fur of the lateral line. The poison is an ouabain, a crystalline cardiac glycoside that greatly increases the force of cardiac muscle contractions. Dogs that have bitten maned rats exhibit signs that vary from mere mouth-frothing and mild distress to collapse and rapid death, apparently from heart failure. People have long used this poison on arrows and spears to aid in the killing of elephants and other large mammals.

Maned rat (Lophiomys imhausi) at Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Photograph by Paul Benson.

Maned rat Lophiomys imhausi at Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Photograph by Paul Benson.

The maned rat is only occasionally observed and camera trapped on Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. See the three camera trap photographs below.

Maned (crested) rat Lophiomys imhausi in riverine forest at 1800 m asl along the Timau River, Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Photograph obtained on 13 November 2016 by the Zoological Society of London/Lolldaiga Hills Research Programme’s Camera Trapping Project.

Maned (crested) rat Lophiomys imhausi in riverine forest at 1800 m asl along the Timau River, Lolldaiga Hills Ranch. Photograph obtained on 13 November 2016 by the Zoological Society of London/Lolldaiga Hills Research Programme’s Camera Trapping Project.

Maned (crested) rats Lophiomys imhausi in dense bushland on southwest Lolldaiga Hills Ranch in 2010 at 1,860 m asl. Photographs obtained by camera trap (Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski).

Maned (crested) rats Lophiomys imhausi in dense bushland on southwest Lolldaiga Hills Ranch in 2010 at 1,860 m asl. Photographs obtained by camera trap (Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski).

Maned (crested) rats Lophiomys imhausi in dense bushland on southwest Lolldaiga Hills Ranch in 2010 at 1,860 m asl. Photographs obtained by camera trap (Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski).

Maned (crested) rats Lophiomys imhausi in dense bushland on southwest Lolldaiga Hills Ranch in 2010 at 1,860 m asl. Photographs obtained by camera trap (Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski).

Since maned rats are rarely seen, their conservation status remains uncertain.

 

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Comments (2)

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    Bob Drewes

    |

    cool Tom. Did not know you were doing this.

    Reply

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    Ben Mugambi

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    Very interesting and impressive findings. It is awesome to hear that you can possibly see them at Lolldaiga. The only very first one I have ever seen almost 15 years ago was at Hopcraft Ranch.

    Reply

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