Bizarre: The long-eared jerboa
Luffy Monday, December 10, 2007 World NewsA bizarre-looking rodent described as "the Mickey Mouse of the desert" has been turned into an unwitting movie star to try to ensure its survival.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) today released the first known footage of the long-ear jerboa, which looks like a mouse-sized kangaroo with enormous ears.
The little jumping Mongolian rodent was filmed hopping about in its natural habitat in the Gobi desert by the scientists from the ZSL's Edge programme, which focuses its efforts on animals which are "evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered".
Bizarre rodent with ears bigger than its head
The jerboa, found in the deserts of Mongolia and China, is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
It is threatened by disturbance of its habitat - with the domestic cat emerging as a newly-introduced predator into the rodent's range.
It is one of 10 species which has been selected for the focus of the first year of the scheme because it was receiving little conservation attention.
All the Edge species are highly distinct genetically, with few close relatives, but are extremely endangered and need immediate action to save them from becoming extinct.
Huge ears: The rodent is dubbed 'the Mickey Mouse of the desert'
Dr Jonathan Baillie, ZSL head of field conservation and leader of the expedition to Mongolia, said: "The footage and images from this expedition really are extraordinary and incredibly charming.
"The long-eared jerboa is a bit like the Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure.
"When people see ZSL's footage of this tiny, threatened creature I am convinced they will want to get involved in its conservation.
"Unfortunately, this is just one of many amazing and unusual animals that are highly threatened but receiving little or no conservation attention."
The long-eared jerboa (Euchoreutes naso) is a jumping rodent whose legs are specially adapted for jumping like a kangaroo and is easily recognised by ears which are about a third bigger than its head.
It is a primarily nocturnal insect-eating animal which spends its daylight hours in underground tunnels.
Long tail: The rodent has a huge tail
Endangered: The strange-looking rodent