Degu

 

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Pet Degus

 

 

 

Range: Degus can be found in the wild living in Chile.  They exist in a range on the west coast of Chile to the Andes Mountains.  

Natural Diet: Grasses, seeds and nuts

Diet at Rain Forest: Fresh greens such as romaine lettuce and turnip greens.  Sweet potatoes, carrots, and other root crops, along with rabbit pellet & guinea pig diets.

Keepers Notes:    Both wild and captive degus are highly social small  mammals.  In the wild they can best be described as crepuscular throughout most of the year.  Their foraging and activity periods do change with the heat or cold of harsh seasons. 

These endearing little rodents are also known locally as a Chilean Squirrel. 

The size of the wild degu group varies greatly; some groups are as small as a few individuals, while other groups have been recorded at over 90 animals. 

Living in burrows, the degu can escape both predators and the heat of the day by sheltering underground.  While not as extensive as other rodent species such as prairie dogs, the burrow system of the degu is very efficient at protecting the animals. 

As is often the case with small rodents of this size, the wild degu can be classified as living in a fossorial lifestyle. 

Degus in the wild will be found in family groups of up to 90 individuals. In captivity they should never be kept on their own, as they will pine. It is advisable to keep them in single sex groups, however, if the group is mixed, it should contain no more than one male. More males will fight to the death for the right to the females in the group.

This little species of rodent has done much to help with diabetes research.  Unable to process natural sugars very well, they were studied to help determine why some humans have a similar problem.  Much of the early research into diabetes was done with the help of these amazing little rodents.

As they are prone to problems with sugar intake, they can also be susceptible to cataracts, just like us!  As a result this little animal has also helped researchers work on a cure for cataracts. 

Size: .  Larger than the common gerbil. The degu does not quite attain the size of an adult rat.

Status in Wild: . Least Concern, wild populations are stable in most parts of their undisturbed range. 

 

 

RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN