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  Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2018



Family : Erinaceidae
Species : Echinosorex gymnura

Head-Body Length : up to 40 cm
Tail Length : up to 29 cm
Weight : up to 1.1 kg

The unique Moonrat, first described by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822, is a relatively large insectivore which inhabits lowland primary and secondary rainforest, swamp forest and sometimes mangrove. It occurs in many parts of mainland and insular Southeast Asia, up to around 1000 metres elevation.

This terrestrial mammal prefers areas of soft soil where it can dig for soft-bodied invertebrates, such as earthworms and insect grubs. It is also known to consume forest floor animals such as frogs and other small vertebrates.

The Moonrat is easily identified by its body size, pointed snout and short legs. The fur on its head and front part of the body is white or creamy-white, sometimes with an orange tinge, while the rear half of its body and tail are typically black. Some populations, however, are completely white, especially on the island of Borneo.

The texture of the fur is shaggy, with soft underfur and coarse outer fur. The fur around the eyes may be dark, sometimes forming a mask. The tail is relatively long, scaly and dark, but paler towards the tip.

This secretive animal has a strong, ammonia smell which probably helps to deter predators. It is nocturnal in habits, and roosts by day in hollow logs or abandoned burrows.

The Moonrat occurs in southern Burma, southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. There are no reliable records from Singapore, where its status is considered as 'doubtful'.

Fig 1 : An adult Moonrat photographed during a rain shower in Maliau Basin Conservation Area, Sabah, Borneo - judging by the mud on its face it appears to have been disturbed whilst digging for prey in soft soil.  Photo thanks to Oliver Wearn.

Fig 2 : A Moonrat crossing a logging track in Panti Forest Reserve, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia. Conversion of this part of the forest reserve to oil palm production will have had an impact on this and many other species.

Fig 3 : Lowland forest near Gunung Panti, Peninsular Malaysia - typical habitat favoured by the Moonrat.

References : M5



Fig 1 ゥ  Oliver Wearn
Fig 2

Fig 3