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Photo by Anne Searight
In appearance this gerbil is quite a bit larger than the Mongolian Gerbil usually seen in pet shops but is still only about half the size of a fully grown Shaw's Jird. It is very light in colour. As can be seen in the photo above the agouti coat on the upper surface of the gerbil is not much darker than the pine shavings the animal is standing on. It has much more pointed features and larger eyes than I have seen in other Meriones species and facially looks a little like a Pallid Gerbil.
They are very inquisitive and seem to have no fear of humans. We have provided a nest box which was immediately occupied so this seems to be a requirement. In all respects we have been looking after them in the same way as our Shaw's Jirds and they seem to be thriving.
Sundevall's can be kept together when a litter is born, although it isn't unusual for the male to sleep in a separate shelter to the mother. They can be kept in small groups, however when babies are born they are carried all over the place, mostly they do survive, but it's not very good for a healthy development. I have been told that at a certain age sons and fathers are likely to start fighting, often some animals have to be removed (not all though). However, we have not experienced this.
The first possible coat colour mutation has cropped up. A Sundervall's Jird in England has developed a small spot on the head, just like that displayed by some Shaw's Jirds.
I am interested in hearing from anyone else with experience of keeping or breeding Sundevall's or any other exotic species of gerbil or jird.
The Following article appeared in the March 1998 issue of The National Gerbil Society Journal:-
An Introduction to the Sundervall's Jird (Meriones crassus)
Back in 1995 an illegal shipment of reptiles was seized at Heathrow Airport. Packed in the crates as food for the snakes was an unidentified species of gerbil. The animals were placed into quarantine where they settled down and eventually bred. At first the gerbils were identified as Meriones sacramenti - The Negev Gerbil. However this proved to be incorrect and they were subsequently identified by London Zoo as Meriones crassus perpallidus or Sundervall's Jird. They are also known by many other names such as Jerusalem Jird, Silky Jird, and my favourite, The Gentle Jird.
They are a very attractive gerbil, having a very light coloured coat flecked with black. The belly fur is brilliant white and there is a clear demarcation line between the top coat and belly. The tail is covered in hair and has a black tuft and the feet also have fine airs on them. A fully grown adult is approximately half as big again as a Mongolian Gerbil.
Their range extends from Morocco to Pakistan. Like Mongolian Gerbils, they live in burrows. They are mainly nocturnal and live on a diet of seeds and insects. I feed mine on ready prepared hamster food and meal worms. The gestation period is between 21-24 days and the average litter size is four young. The female mates post partum and implantation can be delayed up to 30 days if the female is suckling young. The babies are fully weaned at four weeks.
They have adapted very well to life in captivity, although they are still a little jumpy to hold, they will readily breed. They never seem to bite and are very gentle with each other. Clearly social animals they are naturally curious and will come out to investigate you. They are more nocturnal that Mongolian Gerbils, whilst they normally sleep through the day, they are most active between about 8pm and 8am. Like their Mongolian cousins, they do not smell and are very clean and easy to care for. They enjoy a regular sand bath, I use chinchilla sand in a small bowl. Although I keep mine on wood shavings, there is no reason why you could not use a mixture of chinchilla and bird sand. The advantage of this is that their fur will remain soft and silky and will not get greasy. The male can be kept with the female, though he does not play as active role as the Mongolian Gerbil in bringing up the young. I have found that mine prefer to have nest boxes, which the female uses to bring up the young.
You may have recently seen this jird on television. The Jirds shown in a Natural World documentary on BBC2 in February about the wildlife of Oman were probably Sundevall's Jirds. Unfortunately, I missed this programme and have only seen one or two stills. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has it on video.
I personally feel that they make excellent pets and I hope that they will continue to grow in popularity.
There are loads of nice Sundervall's Jird images here.
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Last updated 22 September 2007