Oh no! Even one of the only freshwater mammals in Australia’s waters, the rakali, isn’t safe from being taken out of the race for the Australian mammal of the year. The rakali is an adaptable fighter who gives culinary masterclasses for his boy, but he will not receive Michelin stars today after losing more than 160 votes!
Now you only have 22 hours left to vote for your favorite in the Top 3, after which tomorrow we’ll remove the lowest-rated mammal, clear the numbers and open the vote to determine Australia’s Mammal of the Year.
We’re almost at the end now folks – get your friends, family, and random people on the train home to help your favorite mammal secure its place in the finals.
RIP to the rakali, you will be sorely missed!
Name(s): Australian water rat, or rakali, (Hydromys chrysogaster)
Mate: Length 270-400mm, plus a tail of 240-345mm; weight usually 700-1000g, with some animals up to 1200g.
Eating pattern: This rodent is a carnivore! Aquatic invertebrates, snails, yabbies, clams, frogs, fish, and waterfowl are all part of its diet. If it lives in water and tastes good, it will probably find its way into the belly of the rakali. They are even known to eat turtles and some small mammals.
Habitat: Inland waterways, including small creeks, rivers and lakes, as well as coastal estuaries, beaches and islands in all Australian states and territories. It also occurs in New Guinea.
State of conservation: not threatened
Superpower: Adult water rats hold culinary master classes to teach their young to open freshwater mussels – one of their favorite foods. However, the lessons differ from place to place. In some populations, young water rats are taught to place the mussel on a platform at the water’s edge and let the sun dry the mussel so that the shells fall open. In others, rats are taught to bite through the mussel shell and into the adductor muscles that keep the shells tightly closed.
Don’t like rats? The rakali is sure to change your mind about Australia’s amazing native rats and mice. This large and beautiful water rodent resembles the mice in your kitchen cupboard as much as a majestic tiger resembles a sneaking stray cat.
The name ‘rakali’ is an indigenous name of the people of the Lower Murray River region, but dozens of names for this animal have been recorded in different parts of Australia. Rakali is common throughout their range, which stretches from Tasmania and southwestern WA to the tropics of Northern Australia and New Guinea. They even occur in temporary outback wetlands along Cooper Creek and the Diamantina River. Rakali lives in burrows next to the water and spends time foraging in the water and along the water’s edge. Like many true blue Aussies, they love the beach and a dip in the creek, and are good swimmers and divers.
Unfortunately, many Australians are not aware of the rakali or of how truly beautiful this animal is. It’s one of only two Australian freshwater mammals (the other being the platypus), and it lives all around us – often the only native rodent to be found in our towns and cities. They are true “Aussie fighters” and very adaptable – I’ve seen them hunt in the Townsville marina among luxury yachts, as well as in the pristine rainforest streams of the wet tropics, and in icy creeks high on the New England Tableland. Meet the beautiful rakali and you will never think of rats the same way again.
Latin name of the rakali – Hydromys chrysogaster – translates as “gold-bellied water mouse”. Along with that beautiful body color and distinctive white-tipped tail, the rakali has webbed feet for swimming, a face full of beautiful long whiskers for detecting aquatic food, and eyes and ears high on the head so it can sail half underwater. the water.
Unusually for rodents, the rakali is carnivorous. They hunt small prey, such as aquatic insects and spiders, as well as larger animals such as yabbies, shrimp, mussels and fish. Fish are taken from below, puncturing the swim bladder if the animal is grabbed. Rakali also eats waterfowl; Penny Woollard tells of a colleague’s observation of a fearless animal “which by surprise caught a large musk duck, grabbed the bird’s tail, and lingered until the frenetic duck exhausted itself, then apparently cut its neck”. Woollard and colleagues also recorded water rats eating grebes, swamp chickens and a range of other birds. These are no ordinary rats!
In no particular order, here’s our Top 3!
Dingo (canis dingo or Canis familiaris)
Australia’s charismatic yet controversial native dog took first place in the Rock Stars category in a landslide with a whopping 35% of the vote!
Mountain pygmy opossum (Burramys parvus)
This alpine darling may be hibernating, but that didn’t stop him from climbing to the top of the Hello Possums category and in the race for Mammal of the Year.
Southern Curved Wing Bat (Miniopterus orianae bassanii)
An incredible wave of last minute votes in the Brilliant Bats category caused a surprising switcheroo; the southern curved-wing bat that flies ahead of the spectacled flying fox with 36% of the votes and enters the Top 10.
Think carefully about your choice, because you can only vote once per round!
How does voting work?
“But how does voting work?” you may ask. Don’t worry, it’s super simple.
Voting is now open for the Top 3 (starting Monday, August 22, 12:00 PM AEST) and will be open at 10:00 PM – tomorrow, Tuesday, August 23, at 10:00 AM AEST.
Then, at noon AEST, we’ll be announcing the mammal that received the fewest votes and our Top 2 finalists in the running to be crowned Mammal of the Year!
We will reset the number to zero and open the vote to determine our winner, with a vote open for two days, we will finally put the debate to rest (at least for this year) and crown Australia’s Mammal of the Year on Thursday August 25!
Vote here for your choice in the Top 3: