First known footage of wild long-eared jerboas

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Scroll down to find out more about the expedition to Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and view the first known footage of the extraordinary long-eared jerboa in its natural habitat.

Two of the top 100 EDGE species, the long-eared jerboa and the Bactrian camel, are found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China. This summer I flew out to Mongolia to work with Uuganbadrakh (long-eared jerboa EDGE Fellow) and Adiya (Bactrian camel EDGE Fellow) to help them get their research studies off the ground. The reason we focused on the Bactrian camel and the long-eared jerboa is that they are one of a kind species that are believed to be on the verge of extinction. They are poorly known and little is being done to conserve them.

jb1.jpg

We embarked on a month long journey, first to visit the long-eared jerboa study site in the Little Gobi, two days drive south of Ulan Batar, and then to the camel project in the Great Gobi Special Protected Area, four days drive to the west.

Great Gobi Special Protected Area

Long-eared jerboas are unbelievably odd looking nocturnal creatures resembling a miniature kangaroo with a pig like snout and dumbo ears. Although there are a number of jerboa species, the long-eared jerboa (Euchoreutes naso) is the only representative of an entire genus, meaning that it is distantly related to all other creatures on the planet.

jerbsketch1.jpg

Long-eared jerboa. Clark, E. L., Munkhbat, J., Dulamtseren, S., Baillie, J. E. M., Batsaikhan, N., Samiya, R. and Stubbe, M. (compilers and editors) (2006). Mongolian Red List of Mammals. Regional Red List Series Vol. 1. Zoological Society of London, London. (In English and Mongolian)

The species has a broad distribution, spanning the deserts of both Mongolia and China, but it is believed to be restricted to very small patches within this distribution. Globally, it is listed by IUCN as Endangered and within Mongolia it is listed as Vulnerable. The cause of their threatened status is not well understood, but it has been suggested that it is due to habitat disturbance from mining activities, overgrazing and agriculture as well as possibly climate change.

As we drove out of Ulan Batar we passed Bogd Khaan National Park which has enjoyed state protections since 1778 and is often cited as the oldest national park in the word. However, rapid development around Ulan Batar is resulting in increasing pressure on the park and cutting of wildlife corridors.

Ulan Batar

The paved road abruptly came to an end and our long and bumpy two day journey to the Little Gobi had begun. The Russian vehicle we were using felt extremely sturdy, but comfort was clearly not a consideration in the design.

van.jpg

On the second day we picked up a family of three that had been waiting for weeks to get a lift to their farm in the Gobi desert, not far north of the Chinese boarder. The son was working as a mechanic for a mining company and had not been home in 7 years. His profession proved very fortunate when we had our first of many breakdowns. He was able to stop the oil leaking from the inside hub of the tyre by taking a piece of thread from a pair of white gloves and wrapping it around a small metal pin which then blocked the leak. I thought about that bit of thread for the rest of our precarious desert journey.

car.jpg

When we were up and running again it was not long before we reached the camp where Uuganbadrakh (the jerboa EDGE Fellow) was based. It is donations that have been given through this website that have provided funding for him to undertake this important conservation project.

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When we met with Uuganbadrakh he said it had been a long time since he had seen a long-eared jerboa, but that the following night he was going to take us to a place where he believed the creatures might be found. We spent the rest of the day discussing his study design and research for the future. He showed me some photos of amazing desert creatures that he had come across while setting up the study including a thick-tailed pygmy jerboa, a long-eared hedgehog and a shrew he had never seen before.

pygmyjerboa.jpg

Thick-tailed Pygmy Jerboa (Salpingotus crassicauda)

hedgehog.jpg

Long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus)

shrew.jpg

Siberian shrew (Crocidura sibirica)

The next day in the afternoon we all headed to the site where we hoped to locate the unusual long-eared jerboa. In the hot afternoon sun we dug small pits in the gravel to place pitfall traps and set a large number of Sherman traps. We also identified the site where the motorcycle line transect would take place that evening.

Late in the evening we headed back to the site and began the line transects with a large spotlight searching the cold desert landscape for any sign of life.

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We came across many Siberian jerboas (Allactaga sibirica), Gobi jerboas (Allactaga bullata) and even a long-eared hedgehog. It was amazing to see these desert animals, but having missed the long-eared jerboa I was nervous that this almost mythical creature would escape me.

pygmy.jpg

We then headed to the pitfall traps and as I walked to the first one I could hear a faint scratching noise. As I peered in the trap my eyes were met by one of the most unusual creatures that I had ever seen. I could not believe that such a strange and delicate looking animal could be at home in such a harsh environment. Upon first seeing the long-eared jerboa I was convinced that it could be the panda of the small mammal world. I knew that as soon as people learned about this little charismatic species they would be committed to ensuring its future.

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When Uuganbadrakh handled the little creature and I watched the jerboa try and dig is impressive teeth into his finger, I no longer thought of it as a delicate or vulnerable species. It could quite clearly look after itself. Uuganbadrakh took body measurements, weighed it, documented the sex, checked to see if it was in breeding season and marked the species. He did this to learn more about the ecology of the long-eared jerboa and to estimate their local abundance.

measure.jpg

When we put the jerboa on the ground we thought it would quickly hop away, but it kept following me and then tired to burrow under my foot.

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hamster.jpg

jerbtrap.jpg

As we checked the traps we came across Siberian and Gobi jerboas, hamsters and many more long-eared jerboas.

We had been out all night and the sun was starting to rise. We followed one of the jerboas as it hopped away from the open gravel area into an area comprised of brush tickets and small sand mounds. The long-eared jerboa inspected a few of the sand mounds and then began to dig its burrow. We watched its unique burrowing method and were surprised to see it completely close the entrance, presumably to help regulate the temperature during the scorching hours of the day.

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As we made our way back to the camp we watch the last jerboa dart into the distance.

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It had been one of the most interesting evenings of my life. I was exhausted but could not wait until the next survey we would undertake in two nights time, just north of the Chinese boarder.

End of part 1.

To make a donation to support this important work please click here

Comments

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  1. Mary Scott said,

    on December 10th, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Cutest thing i’ve ever seen, how many are left?

  2. Miriam Willmott said,

    on December 10th, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I’m suprised to hear that these creatures only live in the Gobi desert, as i have seen these creatures or something very similar known to me as a long eared jerboa in the deserts around Riyadh in Saudi Arabia for many years.


  3. on December 10th, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    [...] it’s really called a long-eared jerboa, but bunnyroo is waay more descriptive. Don’t let the kids see it or they’ll want one [...]

  4. Mary Scott said,

    on December 10th, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    I think there are quite a few kinds of jerboas Miriam. I don’t know if this one can be found elsewhere mind, perhaps it does like in Saudi Arabia too?

  5. VATliX said,

    on December 10th, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    nice creatures, but i think if peaoples now was founded them… then other bastard will catch them to sell :S

  6. Nadia said,

    on December 10th, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    As far as we are aware the Long-eared jerboa is known only from China and Mongolia. Current research indicates that the jerboas in Saudi Arabia (and Northern Africa) are the Egyptian jerboa (Lesser and Greater) and the Euphrates jerboa, none of these species have the distinctive ears of the Long-eared jerboa, can you describe the animals you have seen or do you have pictures of the jerboas ?

  7. frank said,

    on December 10th, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    why cant we just look and not touch?


  8. on December 10th, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    [...] Plenty of info, pics, and videos on the endangered puff at edgeblog [...]

  9. Alex De Coninck said,

    on December 10th, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    Just found out about the existence of this creature on the late night news in Belgium. Somehow made me feel better …

  10. Jane said,

    on December 11th, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Has anyone else read Paul Gallico’s Manxmouse? This is obviously Manxmouse’s long-tailed relative …

  11. Emma said,

    on December 11th, 2007 at 1:18 am

    Unbelievably adorable and so comical to see dart about!

  12. Sumya said,

    on December 11th, 2007 at 2:07 am

    Hello from Mongolia.
    What a cute animal is this. so cute. Good job guys. I think this is called alag daahai, right?

    Sumya
    Ulaanbaatar
    Mongolia

  13. Miriam F. said,

    on December 11th, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    I suspected a scam when I first saw the footage. It looks that strange.
    I am glad it isn’t though. Sorry I doubted you.

  14. Hannah said,

    on December 11th, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    OMG these things are soo adorable and it’s a blimmin’ shame that their population has been brought down so much recently
    Good luck with the conservation work

    xx
    PS
    the long eared jerboa is now one of my favourite animals =]

  15. Alex said,

    on December 11th, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Wow. This is the most comical animal I’ve ever seen! It is my favorite now.

  16. sarah said,

    on December 11th, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Wow how cute are these babies!!! I do agree with Vatlix tho, it probably won’t be long before they start appearing in the pet shops.

    Mind you the one in the video footage above seemed to like human company :0)

  17. Denis said,

    on December 12th, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    cute little animal. Amazing to see what a seemingly empty space like the Gobi desert has to offer. Thanks for sharing those images and videos.

    Denis

  18. Kay said,

    on December 12th, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    I’ve heard about them for years, but wow, your pictures are the best!

    As much as I would love a lot of various rodents as pets, I would hate to see that happen. Soon after, back yard breeders would be popping them out in great supply, breeding out novelty mutations and selling them in mass to pet stores.

    Then they’d be on craigslist. =(

    Anyway, in bitterness I digress! Wonderful story, great pictures!


  19. on December 12th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    These were so cute I had to do a picture and icon of them. They are available for anyone to download under a creative commons licence from here: http://poosk.com/category/icons/

    Chris

    P.s. You can also find an icon for the Pink Fairy Armadillo, another very cute create.

  20. Scott Perry said,

    on December 12th, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    What a media storm these guys have created. And being so cute, it’s no wonder! I’d love to be involved in a conservation exercise like this, please can you send me details on how I would go about getting involved? (practically, as opposed to donation)

    Thanks,
    Scott

  21. Olga Pavlova said,

    on December 13th, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Hello from Russia.
    This animal – jerboa (“tushkanchik” russian name) so cute! It is – like a mouse, my favorite animal, especial in next year…..

  22. Stacey White said,

    on December 13th, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    I first heard about the long eared jerboa in a paper artical , and thought what a cute , wonderful amazzing little creature it is , now i really rodents and so when i saw a picture of the long eared jerboa i was truly fasinated by it , I love these little creatures and would love lots more info about them , so please if you have or get any infomation please email me at: angelmilo@hotmail.co.uk

  23. HENEAUX said,

    on December 15th, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Bonjour je m’appelle Lea, j’habite en France. J’ai decouvert la Gerboise sur un journal pour les enfants qui donnait l’adresse de votre site pour voir en “vrai” ce petit animal tres mignon.
    Merci beaucoup.
    Lea

  24. Kathleen said,

    on December 16th, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    They’re cute but man! It looks like they can BITE! That one dude looks like he has two teeth in his whole mouth, and they are designed to PIERCE HUMAN FLESH! Ouch…


  25. on December 17th, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Hi all,

    I am but a simple geologist, but I may have taken a few pictures of this friendly little fellow a couple of years before: see http://www.geo.uu.nl/~hins/Mongolia%202005_2.htm ans scroll down. Is that the same creature or should I just stick to my rocks and don’t interfere with zoology :)?

    Cheers
    Douwe van Hinsbergen

  26. Shane Warner said,

    on December 19th, 2007 at 7:46 am

    I actually filmed a long-eared jerboa in late July this year in the Southern Gobi. Some locals pointed it out to me as it hide under our vehicle – it was a crazy animal – cute but almost unbelievable the way it moved. I’ve posted my footage on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/v/ZI98J9GDYU if you want to see it.

  27. Anneke said,

    on December 20th, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    I would like to see them petshops. If for nothing else, that if that happened, they wouldn’t be endangered or vulnerable or whatever any more.

  28. Sam said,

    on December 20th, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Wow they are such beautiful little creatures – I particularly like the one who follows those people about! Awesome!

    Thanks x Sam

  29. semelon said,

    on December 27th, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    ???????? ?? ??????????, ?? ??? ??????????? ??????????? =)

  30. Roel said,

    on January 2nd, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I want one for my birthday!! How much do they cost?

  31. Ann said,

    on January 3rd, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Scott (and anyone else who is interested), you can participate in conservation efforts in the Mongolian Gobi by going on an Earthwatch expedition, as I did this past summer:
    http://www.earthwatchexpeditions.org/US/exped/reading.html
    Your financial contribution to the Earthwatch expedition supports both conservation efforts led by Westerners and training of young Mongolian ecologists, who will, in the future, lead conservation efforts of their own. You get to live in a ger (tent) beside a small stream and you help to monitor the activities of large animals, such as Argali goats, and tiny animals, such as jerboas that are almost as cute as the rare ones filmed above.

  32. 1337 said,

    on January 4th, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    I think the should catch one male and one female and try 2 breed them, once these thing’s become pet’s(and i think they will be liked verry much) extinction will not happen for a verry long time, as long as wild as the impact 2 nature is limited and only sell what has been breed i see no problem’s, but i don’t think human’s can keep there hands off these things till that time, shame. so cool


  33. on January 7th, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    This is delightful footage of what must be one of the most adorable creatures we’ve ever seen!! Hope the research project is successful in helping to secure their future.

  34. Nadia said,

    on January 9th, 2008 at 10:51 am

    If anyone would like to see Shane’s footage he took in the Southern Gobi please see the updated link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI98J9GDYUg. It is great footage of a jerboa but looks more like a small five-toed jerboa than the long eared jerboa (the jerboa in the footage does not have the distinctive large ear to body ratio of the long-eared jerboa)

  35. mystork said,

    on January 21st, 2008 at 3:20 am

    good! iam glad to see you!

  36. nick said,

    on April 17th, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    these are cool videos when will you have more.

  37. baynaa said,

    on April 18th, 2008 at 9:57 am

    We have seen some jerboa’s jumping in the middle of utensils in the kitchen area of our mongolian “ger”, when I was child. I thought, all the jerboa’s have big ears, which is not the case that I have understood from this site.

    So, the long-eared ones are so rare in the world!

    Bayanzul.L,
    Mongolia

  38. meg said,

    on May 8th, 2008 at 5:29 am

    i love gerboas

  39. Hannah said,

    on May 19th, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Wow, How cute! And a Roborovski too to top off the cuteness!

  40. dani said,

    on June 5th, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    thats mean

  41. Hilley_Bonawicth said,

    on September 28th, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Next can u add more info on the LONG-EARED JERBOA cause i am doing a
    high school project on it!!

    thanks,
    Hilly_Bonawicth


  42. on July 22nd, 2010 at 12:08 am

    What a rewarding job. I’m a big fan of the long eared hedgehog!

  43. scereeplalp said,

    on January 17th, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Hello, This is absolutely good. I like the way you constructed your words.
    Approvingly done and safeguard it up!


  44. on September 20th, 2011 at 3:17 am

    [...] EDGE Blog В» First known footage of wild long-eared jerboas Dec 10, 2007 … Year of the Jerboa | said,. on December 10th, 2007 at 10:42 pm. [...] Plenty of info, pics, … [...]

  45. Marten said,

    on May 11th, 2012 at 10:02 am

    1st know footage? We radio collared them (and of course made pics etc) back in 2002 for several weeks…a nice and very impressive creature…

  46. william c shuster said,

    on August 4th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    looking at the animal i wonder who they have managed to have so lomg a tail.. bet the underside of tail is wore down.. see any with lost tail- brake off if predator grabs it?

  47. Ohiri cuba Blessbe said,

    on December 8th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    looking at these cute animal i still wounder how they have managed to survive.please do your best in keeping them alive….

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