SIZE: Length (including tail) (m) 72 cm, (f) 67 cm, mass (m) 4,5 kg (f) 3,6 kg.
COLOUR: Dark brown, speckled with yellow. Lips, chin and throat are white; other underparts are whitish.
MOST LIKE: The Lesser Cane Rat, but the greater cane rat is 15 – 20 cm longer and at least twice as heavy.
HABITAT: Dense, tall grass or reeds, or other thick undergrowth always close to water.
The greater cane rat also shows a fondness for other crops such as maize, millet, sweet potatoes, pineapples and groundnuts. It is mostly a nocturnal animal, and constructs shelters of flattened reeds or grasses deep within thickets: there are often well-worn paths, marked by piles of chopped grass and droppings, that lead to their foraging sites. Greater cane rats are generally reported to be solitary animals, but small groups of 8 – 10 may live in an area of reedbed.
When they are alarmed, the rat gives a whistling call and thumps the ground with its hindfeet. They then scurry away, to freeze a few moments later when they feel they are out of danger. Pythons, birds of prey, small carnivores and leopards prey on greater cane rats. Man too hunts them and savours them as an excellent, protein rich food: the greater cane rat appears high on the menus of restaurants in parts of West Africa. Average litter size is four, and the young are precocial: they are born fully-haired with open eyes, and are capable of following their mother an hour after birth.
Among South African rodents, the Greater Cane Rat is second in size and mass only to the porcupine. Its body is bulky and covered in bristly hair; its head is large, while its tail and legs are short. Its name suggests both its habitat and its diet: grasses, rushes, reeds and sugar cane. Cane rats inflict such damage on sugar cane plantations that farmers avidly protect the python which preys on it.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:
• Chobe National Park
• Linyanti Swamp
• Mashatu Game Reserve
• Okavango Delta
• Moremi Game Reserve
• Caprivi Region
• Hluhluwe Game Reserves
• Kalahari Gemsbok Park
• Knysna Lagoon
• Kruger National Park
• St Lucia Wetlands
• Lechwe Plains
• Lower Zambezi
• South Luangwa
• Mosi-oa-Tunya Park