Lakeland Wildlife Oasis welcomes Gundis – the more laid-back vegetarians
We come to National Vegetarian Week, a diet that has been widely adopted in recent years for a variety of environmental, personal, and animal welfare reasons.
While we humans are spoiled for choice, most animals are limited by evolution, habitat, and physiology. Our snow leopards are the primary carnivores in their ecosystem, while our opportunistic meerkats are top-notch omnivores, as happy in nature to munch on fruits, roots, and eggs as beetles, spiders, and even scorpions.
At the right time, we’ve had a few character newcomers who look set to be real posters for National Vegetarian Week: Gundis. Sometimes called “the most interesting rodent you’ve never heard of!” These true herbivores nibble at roots, berries, flowers, and bark.
Living in colonies on rocky desert outcrops in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, they are about the size of a roly-poly guinea pig, with sandy fur, magnificent large eyes, long whiskers. and large ears to detect predators.
A completely new species to the zoo, it is already very popular, because unlike most rodents, they are not nocturnal. They like to feed in cooler mornings and evenings, then bask in the sun all day. And when they want to move, despite having short legs, they are surprisingly fast!
We made sure their enclosure is at 25 degree room temperature and up to 35 degree temperature under the heat lamp. The ultimate nap lover, their flexible rib cages allow them to flatten like pancakes to absorb as much heat as possible when lounging; and means they can squeeze through tiny passages between rocks.
Our three Gundis are daughters: Beyoncé, Michelle and Kelly and we hope to present males for a breeding program in time – maybe Jay-Z? They have a remarkable range of strong, individual vocalizations, and over time caretakers and regular visitors should be able to tell them apart by call.
Totally adorable, they already loved each other for me by having a special toe on their hind legs, which they use to comb their fur! Eating fruit, grooming in the sun, and chatting all day: these laid back vegetarians clearly got it sorted.