Why Ice Rats are grumpy.

A rat named after him.

On the 27th November 1928 the Director-General of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Colonel Arthur Thomas Sloggett was strolling in Regent gardens with his son when he suddenly collapsed and died. He had come to the end of a most illustrious career in which he would be remembered for inspiring leadership within the challenges of trench warfare.  He is mentioned in at least 7 despatches. So memorable was he that he even had a rat named after him and to this day no one has any idea why……….

Cuddly little creatures on Sani Pass.

Sloggetts Ice Rats are endemic to Southern Africa, and they are most often found in the high reaches of the Drakensberg mountains mainly at the summit of the Sani Pass. They look like they’ve scurried straight out of the pages of a Beatrix Potter storybook, all shiny soft brown fur and delicate hands and feet. They are only found at elevations of over 2000 meters but usually over 2600m above sea level and in snowy cold areas which makes the Sani Pass at 2874 meters above sea level, the perfect habitat. However, these cuddly little creatures that elicit more ‘Ah ‘cute’s’ than anything else on Sani Pass Tours are highly confused.

Their normal bodily functions only work properly at temperatures of between 26 to 28 degrees. So not only do they struggle with extreme constipation but every time Mr. Sloggett decides to become amorous, he’s got to exert extraordinary efforts to ensure that in 38 days Mrs. Sloggett will produce a few more heirs and spares. She only allows him to have his way with her in late summer so she can stay below ground with the kids for the winter. She fills the home burrows with never more than 2 offspring at a time and unlike her cousins and distant relatives she will remain the only breeding female in the household until the spinster daughters are farmed out to new prospective long-suffering beaus’.

One would have thought it would have been so simple to pack their buckets and spades and scurry off to warmer fields but not so, they enjoy the Sani Pass as much as we do, so these remarkable fluff balls decided to adapt their physical appearance rather than desert their mountainous burrows. Although often confused with their relatives of lower breeding the ‘Vlei’ rats, the kids have physically adapted to the extreme cold in winter as their body, ears, limbs, and tail are short compared to those of the southern African vlei rat reducing their heat loss. Mrs. Sloggett also feeds the babes for far longer than their cousins, so they are forced to remain underground until they reach a greater age.

Even in their guts, their small intestines are unusually large, allowing them to absorb more energy from their food and thus keep warm. Their fur is also thick and dense, allowing them to retain heat more easily than their lowland relatives.

Daily menus.

Daily menu planners are enough to drive anyone insane but especially when the Sloggett family prefers juicy green shoots, flowers, and leaves, which is quite absurd when they live mostly in minus temperatures. Hence Mrs. Sloggett zaps around in a frenzy during the warm weather, carefully squirreling away stocks for the cold winter months. Let’s face it if you were facing an annual lockdown with newborns and an exhausted Mr. Sloggett still trying to recover from his sexual advances, there can be nothing worse if the whole crowd is whining for fresh veggies as well.  

During the warm months, all the Sloggetts spend time sunbathing on rocks out in the open. This is when we see them lazing away the day on the Sani Pass and they’re usually mellow and gentle just like us when we’re lying on the beach. Now again unlike the lower cousins, they do not hibernate. Their burrows have many passages and entrances and nooks and crannies, and they scurry around trying to keep warm no matter the month of the year. The kids aren’t allowed to mess inside so you’ll always notice entrances to their burrows by the droppings just outside. I think during the cold they just pop their buffy rear ends out to dump the digested fresh veggies which is why there’s always a little pile of poop close by.

A nasty side as well.

However, these rats, as cute as they are, have a nasty side as well. When down in the burrows they cuddle and huddle together for warmth and are a close-knit crowd. Bring them out into the open and the boxing gloves appear. Scientists think this may be because they are trying to survive in such low temperatures where food is scarce, and they have to fight for a decent existence. I think they’re grumpy because they’re constipated and sexually frustrated.  

Whatever the reason a very smart man by the name of Neville Pillay of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, has spent many hours watching them and trying to figure out why they do what they do. 

“Pillay and his colleagues discovered this by monitoring 10 colonies of wild rats for four years. Each one had up to 17 adults, but in 612 hours of observations, once above ground the rats only interacted 31 times, and 26 of those were aggressive.” Zoologger: The rat with two faces by MichaelMarshall.

 Read more on the rat with two faces: 

So, they only like each other in the dark and when they’re cold. 

However, even in their aggression, they are endearing. They rush up to one another and holding tiny fists they play box for a while and eventually run away without any damage. Much like a session of parliament.  

I think this is a compromise,” Pillay says. The ice rats are social when they need each other to stay warm, but ferocious loners when looking for food. “It works for them.”

I think the Sloggett kids must get confused that the family is all lovey-dovey down below but Ma and Pa nail them on the rocks when they’re just trying to find lunch. Sounds like they’re going to need a lot of therapy when they get older.

The most interesting of all is the arrival of ‘climate change’.  Although we’ve had many days of thick snow on the Sani Pass this year the summers are without a doubt becoming warmer. If the weather warms up for many more days of the year, Old Man Sloggett is going to find that his system starts to rev at a higher rate and Mrs. Sloggett is going to have to stock up for a larger brood. This means that the rocks into Lesotho will soon be covered with little Sloggetts all trying to forage for decent meals.  

We wouldn’t mind at all as our guests on our tours would be all the more fascinated by these interesting little creatures and boxing gloves on or off, we’ll enjoy them just as much.

See these ice rats on any of our tours.


One thought on “Why Ice Rats are grumpy.

  1. Barbs says:

    Cute story! Suggest a small story book about the sloggets with illustrations -. A take away memory for the kids

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