– BIZARRE-LOOKING NAKED MOLE RATS MAY HOLD SECRET TO LONGEVITY
– LATEST OFFERING SHOWCASES THESE CURIOUS CREATURES’ UNDERGROUND LIFE
Singapore, 7 March 2012 – They are hairless, buck-toothed and very nearly blind. Pick one of these creatures up and you’ll realise that they smell really bad. It’s probably from all the rolling about in their own fecal matter so they’ll smell like one big happy family. Smelly or not, scientists believe that naked mole rats’ genetic material holds the secret to a long life – they can live over 20 years, almost eight times longer than mice.
These little rodents, only one of two mammals known to have a social structure similar to social insects, now have a huge exhibit all to themselves—Singapore Zoo’s first foray into showcasing such little creatures on a comparatively large scale.
The exhibit mimics their system of burrows in the wild in order to provide a naturalistic environment for them. Naked mole rats have burrow systems extending up to 4.8 kilometres long in the wild and covering an area as big as six football fields.
Singapore Zoo’s exhibit, measuring 50 square metres, is a scaled-down version of their complex living environment. Constructed with steel and concrete, it also has glass-fronted panels for visitors to view the naked mole rats at work and play. Lighting is kept dim, as these creatures are used to living in dark environments.
To facilitate convenient cleaning, two identical sets of burrow systems were constructed. Each set is washed and switched every month, then lined with pine shavings to keep them clean and relatively odourless. It is hard work, as the components of the exhibit are extremely sturdy – a necessary defense against the strong teeth of these rats. Unfortunately, these little creatures seem to possess superhuman strength, and have already managed to make dents in some of the concrete components, much to the dismay of their keepers!
An interactive element was also added – a pint-sized tunnel for children to crawl through and imagine a day in the life of a naked mole rat. Periscopes and child-friendly interpretive and activity panels complete the educational component of this exhibit.
“Having such an accessible and engaging exhibit allows us to observe the behaviour of these fascinating critters closely, as such animals cannot be studied so easily in the wild. Singapore Zoo hopes to be able to contribute to the education and research of this species, and at the same time introduce the lesser-known wonders of nature to our guests,” said Dr Sonja Luz, Director, Conservation, Research and Learning Centre, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
Come visit and learn more about the naked mole rat at Singapore Zoo today! If these little creatures end up contributing to longer lives for all of us one day, you can tell everyone you saw them first at our Zoo!
Note: Daily feeding sessions are held at 11.30am