Monday, September 01, 2008

Creatures of Laos: Kha-Nyou: Laotian Rock Rat

First noticed by scientists in the mid-90s in the meat markets of Laos but widely identified for mainstream scientific communities in 2005, the kha-nyou is also known as the Laotian rock rat or rat squirrel.

The nocturnal kha-nyou seems quite tame and slow-moving, with a walk described as duck-like, an efficient method for scrambling up and across large rocks.

They're about 26 cm long with a 14 cm tail and weigh about 400 grams.

The kha-nyou is mostly found in parts of Laos with karst limestone, among the boulders on hills. Villagers in the area are familiar with the kha-nyou and consider them edible.

Back in 2005, a conservation biologist, Robert Timmins was quoted on its discovery by non-Laotian scientists: "It was for sale on a table next to some vegetables, and I knew immediately it was something I had never seen before."

People in the Khammouan region of Laos have known about the kha-nyou for a long time of course, and prepare it by roasting it on a skewer.

The kha-nyou belongs to a family of rodents thought to have gone extinct 11 million years ago.

There are still controversies about the kha-nyou, but so far, we know they're definitely NOT related to guinea pigs.

Right now, research strongly suggests that the kha-nyou is the only known survivor of the Diatomyidae family, and the closest relative still living in the world would be the Gundi, found in Africa:

And now we know.

We'll look again soon at other fun creatures you can find in Laos!

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