Degus find an unlikely new home

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A group of 11 rescued degus are settling in to their new home at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth.

The South American rodents were rescued by animal charity Pawz For Thought and have gone on display in the North Tyneside aquarium’s Amazing Amazon feature – alongside a colony of miniature monkeys and tree frogs.

Originally from the west coast of Chile degus look a little like a cross between chinchillas and large gerbils.

Blue Reef’s Anna Pellegrino said: “They really are incredibly cute looking little critters and have already made quite an impression on staff here.

“To have 11 of them all snuggled up together is very sweet and – although they aren’t really the kind of animals you’d expect to see at an aquarium – our visitors also seem to be enjoying our unexpected new guests,” she added.

In Chile degus live in large colonies of ten or more animals. In fact their numbers are so great in certain areas that they are treated as pests because of the damage they do to agricultural crops.

They build a series of underground tunnels with many entrances in which they live.

It is thought that the social status of a male is decided by the size of their trinket mound. Males keep a pile of sticks, stones and other things near the entrance to burrows as a status symbol.

Usually if the male chases away another male they will drag some more trinkets to their pile. If, however their mound is destroyed they lose their status in the group.

Like most small mammals in the wild, degus are the target of many predators. Of all degus that are born and live in the wild it is believed that only fifty per cent survive until their first birthday and only one per cent live to see their second birthday.

Even if they manage to survive beyond their second year the maximum life span in the wild appears to be about three to four years.

In captivity however, with their access to better food and a lack of predators, the average life span for a degu is anywhere from six to nine years.