Belize's famous Royal Rat, Gibnut or in Spanish pepesqint
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Thursday May 11, 2017

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Belize's famous "Royal Rat," Gibnut or in Spanish pepesqint

That royal rat is so delicious.

Gibnut is one of the animals of Belize and is known in Yucatec Maya as Jaaleb (Haaleb). The gibnut, also known as the paca or royal rat in Belize (They're the same animal (species name is Cuniculus paca). Not to confuse with the agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), is one of the most desired animals for both humans and wild carnivores. The Gibnut is known as the agouti paca. Where as there is its cousin which is the Central American Agouti. Gibnut game meat is a delicacy in Belize; and, to help protect this species, it is illegal to hunt it from December 1st to May 31st. Also called bush rabbit by the locals, the gibnut has stripes and is basically nocturnal.

This nocturnal and solitary animal mainly lives near water sources and in dense tropical forests. This rodent is about 2 feet long and weighs up to 25 pounds. Its fur is reddish-brown in color with horizontal rows of white spots.

They are great swimmers, short distance runners, can jump up to 3 feet and stay still for up to 45 minutes. It has been recorded that gibnuts can live up to 13 years. Gibnut can be heard and seen at night. This large rodent makes lots of noise while walking through the dry leaves of the forest or while chewing on the hard shells of the cohune nut, one of its favorite foods. The gibnut also produces a hoarse bark or a deep rumbling when disturbed.

The gibnut feeds on fallen fruits, leaves, buds, flowers, fungi, and even insects and some tubers dug from the ground. It is an important seed disperser, soil aerator, fungus distributor and a source of food for other wild animals. The gibnut helps keep a healthy forest ecosystem.

Photograph courtesy Noel Escalante

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