Some people were conducting field research in Baja, California recently when they came across a San Quintin kangaroo rat. They weren’t actually looking for him, because his species hasn’t been spotted in decades. San Quintin kangaroo rats were thought to have gone extinct. And yet, here this little guy was!
This tiny and unique creature is about five inches long with a lengthy tufted tail and springy back legs that help him hop like a kangaroo. The San Quintin kangaroo rats were accidentally sacrificed for tomatoes and strawberries; their habitat in Baja was converted to farms and hothouses to grow these fruits.
Nobody had even seen one since 1986 — until now.
People from the San Diego Natural History Museum and Terra Peninsular, a Mexican nonprofit devoted to conservation, were conducting normal field research in July of 2017 when they happened to chance upon four kangaroo rats that seemed to be of the San Quintin “extinct” type. Their speculations turned out to be true.
“You can’t imagine how happy we are,” Jorge Andrade, adaptive manager coordinator at Terra Peninsular, said in a press release. “It’s very gratifying for us to think that the San Quintin kangaroo rat persists in the area.”
The researches were so excited that they took turns holding the rats in order to document their existence in pictures, before releasing them back into the field and watching them hop away.
They are determined to help protect the species through land conservation.
“Not only is this discovery a perfect example of the importance of good old-fashioned natural history field work, but we have the opportunity to develop a conservation plan based on our findings,” Scott Tremor, mammalogist with the museum, said. “The ability to take our research and turn it into tangible conservation efforts is thrilling.”
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