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Gambian Rats – An Invasive Species to Florida

Gambian rat

Cricetomys gambianus Waterhouse, 1840

Originally belonging to African territories, the Gambian rat quickly became an invasive species to Florida. In general, the natural habitat of this mammal is not densely populated residential areas, but for several decades the Gambian rat has been causing damage to Florida’s urban ecosystem, namely Grassy Key. Specifically, eight rodents were accidentally released by a local breeder (Perry et al., 2006). Over time, with an abundance of basement living space and garbage for subsistence, the rats quickly multiplied, and their population increased in numbers.

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Cricetomys gambianus Waterhouse, 1840

This rat species is justifiably considered invasive because its introduction has shown to be detrimental to both the agricultural industry and wildlife in general. Gambian rats create burrows in arable land, causing them to dry out and kill crops. In addition, the relatively large size of the rodent should be taken into account, which is a critical advantage in the struggle for survival: the Gambian rat is able to compete effectively for resources. In addition, this species has been shown to be a vector of some serious animal diseases.

The local Wildlife Service initiated several programs to capture and eradicate the rodents. These have included the use of video cameras with tracking sensors, the use of peanut butter baits. However, these are not the most effective strategies: alternatives include the use of rodenticides: Ramik minibars, 2% zinc phosphide bait (“Cricetomys gambianus,” 2020). Still, chemical baiting also requires an attractive trap and selectivity so as not to harm native species. Finally, one recent development is using a mixture of urine and feces from congeners that is most attractive to invasive rodents.

At the core of the ethical debate in invasive species extermination programs is the dilemma between destroying animals and trying to preserve the local ecosystem. However, it should be understood that invasive plants are not endowed with intelligence like animals, and therefore exterminating them does not seem unethical. Thus, destroying invasive plants is much less of an ethical concern due to their irrationality as compared to animals.

Regardless of the animal species, the most ethical control method is collection and deportation to the natural environment. For rodents, this could mean initial trapping and subsequent transport to Africa. It should be recognized, nevertheless, that for different animal species, collection and deportation methods can be complicated both technically and economically while maintaining ethical well-being.


Cricetomys gambianus (2020). GISD. Web.

Perry, N. D., Hanson, B., Hobgood, W., Lopez, R. L., Okraska, C. R., Karem, K.,… & Carroll, D. S.

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(2006). New invasive species in southern Florida: Gambian rat (Cricetomys gambianus). Journal of Mammalogy, 87(2), 262-264.

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