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There are several species of Gerbil that live in the savannah of West Africa. The following is a summary of what I have been able to find out about some of them.
The Slender Gerbil (Taterillus gracilis)
This is the smallest of the Gerbils from this region. About five inches long, it has a tail of eight inches with a little tuft of long hairs at the tip. It has a brown back with buff flanks and a white belly. It lives in small colonies coming out to feed at night. Often it lives in cultivated areas, where it may do significant damage.
The Guinea Gerbil (Tatera guineae)
This Gerbil is of the same proportions and almost the same colour as The Slender Gerbil, but is larger, nearly as big as Kemp's Gerbil. It also lives in Guinea Savannah, and can make its burrows in the hardest ground. It is not known to live in colonies.
Kemp's Gerbil (Tatera valida )
This is the largest, heaviest, and least typical of West African Gerbils. It is about seven inches long with an untufted tail of the same length. The hind feet are short for a Gerbil. The colour pattern is the same as in the other species, but darker and duller. Kemp's Gerbil rarely if ever hops but walks on all fours. It is nocturnal like the others, and lives in burrows, generally two animals to a burrow. It eats roots of various kinds, the thick roots of savannah grasses or yam, cassava and other crops. Although originally a savannah form, it has invaded the High Forest zone in areas which are cultivated, and where grasses have encroached into the forest. The non-native root crops grown there form an ideal food supply and Kemp's Gerbil is considered a pest. Due to the persecution by man of the Gerbil's natural predators, Owls and Snakes, Kemp's Gerbil has few natural predators and thrives to the detriment of the local crops.
(adapted from Small Mammals of West Africa by A H Booth)
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Last updated 22 September 2007