Ultra-rare, giant rat that cracks coconuts with its teeth caught on camera for first time

The Vangunu giant rat is the first new species of rodent described from Solomon Islands in over 80 years. Photo courtesy of Dr. Tyrone Lavery.

A giant, critically endangered rat that makes the infamous rats of New York look like pet mice was caught on camera for the first time, researchers say.

The Uromys vika giant rat is one of the world’s rarest rodents, according to researchers from the University of Melbourne, Solomon Islands National University, and Zaira Village, Vangunu. The rat is at least twice the size of a common rat, is tree-dwelling and reportedly can chew through coconuts with its teeth, researchers said.

Live Science reports that they can grow up to 1.5 feet in length – roughly the average size of a newborn baby. 

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Using camera traps and the help of the Vangunu people, researchers captured 95 images of four different giant rats in their forest habitat. According to Smithsonian Magazine, researchers tried using peanut butter to entice the giant rats in the past, but it only worked on non-native black rats.

First described in 2017 through a holotype – or a single physical specimen – the vika giant rat is considered critically endangered due to logging of their primary lowland forest habitat. Researchers believe they can only be found on Vangunu in the Solomon Islands. 

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"Capturing images of the Vangunu giant rat for the first time is extremely positive news for this poorly known species," Dr. Tyrone Lavery, the study’s lead author, said in a news release. "This comes at a critical juncture for the future of Vangunu’s last forests."