Myotomys (Otomys) unisulcatus
The Bush Karoo Rat occurs in the drier parts of South Africa’s south-west (Northern, Western and Eastern Cape) and marginally into extreme southern Namibia. Their preferred habitat is areas with good vegetation coverage, such as that found along drainage lines, in the arid Karoo scrublands and semi-desert of the west coast. They feed on the seeds, berries, flowers, leaves and bulbs of a wide variety of plants (up to 60 species have been recorded for some populations), with succulents providing their required water intake. Including their relatively short tails, Bush Karoo Rats grow to an average of 24cm in length and weigh around 125g.
Bush Karoo Rats are mainly diurnal in nature, living in family groups numbering up to 11 rats that share a “lodge” – a large structure built of sticks, twigs, grass, kelp, bones, fur, and even shells and human litter, usually in or under the protection of a thorny bush. From the lodge a network of paths used to gather food radiate into the surrounding vegetation, with family members often bringing food back to store at the lodge. They will also readily climb into trees and bushes to reach food and to sun themselves. Bush Karoo Rats breed throughout the year, with litters of 1-5 young born after a 38 day gestation. They have a short life expectancy of less than 2 years in the wild.
The IUCN lists the Bush Karoo Rat as being of least concern, describing it as abundant in suitable habitat.