Rodents

The largest rodent found in Laikipia is the African Porcupine, which lies up in holes during the day and is a notorious crop pest at night. The South American Coypu, introduced for its fur in the 1920s, escaped from fur farms and has spread wide and far. The two species of wild hare – the Cape Hare and the Scrub Hare – are not easily told apart in the field. In drier, sandier areas of northern Laikipia you may see the mounds of the Naked Mole-rat, a bizarre creature with a social system more like that of ants than of any mammal, having a single ‘queen’ and a sterile ‘worker caste’. As these creatures live underground, all you can expect to see are puffs of sand erupting from a mound, as the last in a chain of workers kicks debris out of a burrow.

The Crested Rat, a black-and-white beast resembling a cross between a skunk and a porcupine, fluffs up its coat when disturbed to reveal a dark brown stripe along its side. Dogs have reputedly died after biting these rats, whose brown hairs are believed to contain toxins, which would make this species one of only a few poisonous mammals.

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