Conservationists had not seen the red-crested tree rat since 1898. The charming, nocturnal endangered creature made a surprise guest appearance on May 4th at the front entrance of a lodge on a nature preserve in Columbia, Virginia.
According to Conservation International, an Arlington-based advocacy group, the odd-looking, puffy red rodent hung around for about two hours, allowing photographs (but not autographs) to the astonished volunteers, even including some close-ups, before it finally ran back into the woods.
In the words of Lizzie Noble, a volunteer at the sanctuary who hails from Godalming, England:
“He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement…. We are so proud that our El Dorado Nature Reserve has provided a safe haven for this enigmatic little guy to survive.”
About the size of a guinea pig, the red-crested tree rat will now be designated as a “critically endangered species.” Conservation International is most concerned about the hungry feral cats that roam the rat’s domain.
In the words of George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy:
“Had we not worked with our partners to establish this reserve, it is reasonable to believe this species would still remain something that was only talked about in science journals. Now we need to work with our partners to take steps to see that this species continues to be a part of our world.”
We can all be cosmically content that the little critter is still with us, but still, somewhere:
I smell a rat.
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