Rarely will one encounter a cloud rat, and never, especially if one lives in the temperate regions. This is because the cloud rat is endemic or living only in the Philippines. The cloud rat lives mainly in the canopy of trees, the reason why they are called “cloud” rats denoting their habitat high above in the “sky.”
The cloud rats are not well studied owing to their reclusive behavior and habitat high up in the forest coupled with their quiet nature. There are also few specimens available for study.
What are the different kinds of cloud rat?
There are three different kinds of cloud rats. These are the giant cloud rats, the bushy-tailed cloud rats, and the dwarf cloud rats. The giant cloud rats are of the genus Phloeomys which is composed of two species: P. pallidus and P. cumingi. The bushy-tailed cloud rats, on the other hand, are of the genus Crateromys. Genus Crateromys is composed of C. schadenbergi, C. paulus, C. australis, and C. heaneyi. C. paulus is considered extinct. The third kind is the dwarf cloud rat of the genus Carpomys with the sole species Carpomys melanurus.
Cloud rats are known to occur in the forested islands of Luzon, Ilin, Panay, and Dinagat in the Philippines. Phloeomys pallidus are found in northern Luzon, Phloeomys cumingi in southern Luzon, Crateromys schadenbergi in Luzon, Crateromys paulus in Ilin, Crateromys australis in Dinagat, C. heaneyi in Panay, and Carpomys melanurus in northern Luzon.
External features of the cloud rats
The following are the external features of the cloud rats:
1. Giant cloud rat in Luzon (P. pallidus). P. pallidus has long, dense fur of cream or pale gray with black or brown markings.
2. Giant cloud rat in Luzon (P. cumingi). Similar to P. pallidus but has rough and lighter colored hairs dorsally and longer hairs on the head and back while dorsally the color of the coat is paler.
3. Bushy-tailed cloud rat of Luzon (C. schadenbergi). Largest of the genus, this cloud rat species can grow to a length of 35 to 39 cm. The color of the fur may vary among individuals. They may be all white, all black, or a mix of black, white and brown.
4. Bushy-tailed cloud rat of Dinagat (C. australis). The Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat is similar in size with C. heaneyi but has a burnt orange fur on the head and back and an orange-brown belly.
5. Bushy-tailed cloud rat of Panay (C. heaneyi). C. heaneyi is smaller but similar to C. schadenbergi. It measures 25 to 35 centimeters long.
6. Bushy-tailed cloud rat in Ilin (C. paulus). C. paulus is the smallest of the bushy-tailed cloud rats. It has short brown fur, a cream-coloured underside, and a short, hairy, three-colored tail.
7. Dwarf cloud rat in Luzon (Carpomys melanurus). The dwarf cloud rat as the name indicates is the smallest among the cloud rats. The adult weighs only 185 grams. The dwarf cloud rat has a dense soft reddish brown fur with dark-colored tail.
Behavior, feeding habits, and reproduction
The slow-moving cloud rats are active at night or are nocturnal. They are quiet, timid animals whose diet consists of tender young leaves in the forest, fruits and seeds. Only one young is produced each year although pairs were observed in Panay Island. The young is reared by the mother in a large hollow of trees, logs or wild plants like tree ferns.
Threats and population status
Just like other species of animals in the forests of the Philippines, the cloud rats are in danger due to overhunting for its meat and deforestation in their area of distribution. It may just be a matter of time that these species may be extinct unless effective measures are undertaken to preserve its habitat and regulate or minimize hunting pressure.
Cloud rat. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 12, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/122369/cloud-rat
Slender-tailed cloud rats. (2007). In Vanishing Treasures. Retrieved on September 12, 2010, from http://www.fieldmuseum.org/vanishing_treasures/V_CRats.htm