Cloud rats are very large and beautiful rodents found only in the forests of the Philippines, where the Muridae (mouse and rat) family has radiated into numerous forms and ecological niches. There are six species of cloud rat, all extremely rare. A few of these species are known from only a handful of specimens and may in fact already be extinct. Problematically, all of the relatively common cloud rat species are actively trapped and hunted by the natives for their meat and their fur.
Cloud rats are arboreal animals and are most active just after sunset. They are all herbivores and have very little in common with the scavenger rats most of us are familiar with. Their tails tend to be bushy, and they closely resemble large squirrels.
The locals call the Crateromys species "yut-yut", and the Phloeomys "bu-ut".
INFORMATION ON CLOUD RAT SPECIES:
- Northern Luzon slender-tailed cloud rat (Phloeomys pallidus) - white with a black mask. Discovered in 1890. IUCN status as of 2000 - Lower Risk/Near Threatened.
- Southern Luzon (or "Southern Giant") Slender-tailed Cloud Rat (Phloeomys cumingi) - black or very dark brown, this rat has been found on several islands. It eats young leaves and fruit, and makes its den in hollow trees. IUCN Status - Vulnerable.
- Giant bushy-tailed cloud rat (Crateromys schadenbergi) - ranging from 33-40 cm long, with a 35-49 cm tail, this is one of the largest rat species in the world. It is one of the more common types of cloud rat, but is vulnerable due to habitat reduction. It lives in the high mountains of Benguet and Ifugao, and eats pine cones and flower buds. Lifespan in captivity is four and a half years. IUCN Status - Vulnerable.
- Ilin Island cloud rat - (Crateromys paulus) - much smaller than shadenbergi, at about 25 cm, with a 21 cm tail. Fur is short and coarse, ranging from dark brown to cream coloured. The tail is furred but not bushy, and striped in brown, black and cream. Discovered in 1981, this rat is found on one island only, off of Mindoro. Its habits are unknown. IUCN Status - Critically Endangered by habitat reduction as of 1996, and according to studies from 1999, it may actually be extinct.
- Dinagat Island cloud rat (Crateromys australis) - 27 cm head and body, 28 cm tail, rough wiry tawny-coloured fur with bright orange-brown underparts. The tail is tri-coloured like paulus. Also found only on one island. Discovered in 1985. IUCN Status - Endangered due to habitat reduction.
- Panay bushy-tailed cloud rat (Crateromys heaneyi) - a large leaf and fruit eater found in lowland forests of the island of Panay. Very slow moving. Has light fur and black facial markings. Discovered in 1987. Status - Endangered due to habitat reduction.