Lonely Planet Writer

The feared extinct Kangaroo Rat discovered alive and well in Mexico

For more than thirty years, this adorable creature was feared extinct, as its traditional habitat was turned into farmland. Now, conservationists have confirmed that the San Quintin kangaroo rat has been discovered, having last been seen in 1986.

The tiny mammal discovered in Mexico after setting survey traps. Image by Sula Vanderplank/San Diego Natural History Museum

The tiny creature was rediscovered in Baja California in Mexico by researchers from the San Diego Natural History Museum and a non-profit in the region called Terra Peninsular. The kangaroo rat had been listed as endangered in 1994 by the Mexican government and was presumed lost forever as much of its native habitat was converted into land for growing tomatoes and strawberries.

The discovery was made on the Baja California peninsula. Image by Sula Vanderplank/San Diego Natural History Museum

Active searches and monitoring had been taking place since but without success. Last summer however, Scott Tremor of the San Diego museum was out conducting research with a colleague when they managed to find four live kangaroo rats.

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Scott Tremor said: “not only is this discovery a perfect example of the importance of good old-fashioned natural history work, but we have the opportunity to develop a conservation plan based on our findings.” The kangaroo rats are about five inches in length with a distinctive tufted tail. Their name comes from their powerful back legs which let them bound along like the famous Australian marsupial.

The name comes from powerful back legs. Image by Sula Vanderplank/San Diego Natural History Museum

It’s actually the third mammal that was thought to be extinct that has been rediscovered on the Baja California peninsula by the San Diego Natural History Museum. Researchers were also able to find examples of both the high elevation California vole and the round tail ground squirrel.

The museum responsible for the rediscoveries is one of San Diego’s most popular recreation spots. It can be found in the city’s Balboa Park, not far from the famous zoo and a host of other attractions.