Otomys sloggetti 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Muridae

Scientific Name: Otomys sloggetti Thomas, 1902
Common Name(s):
English Sloggett's Vlei Rat
Myotomys sloggetti (Thomas, 1902)
Taxonomic Notes:

Although Otomys sloggetti is considered to be defined by primitive dental characters, its position on the phylogeny of Otomyinae remains unresolved (Taylor et al. 2004).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2017-02-21
Assessor(s): Pillay, N., Taylor, P., Baxter, R. & Child, M.F.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Monadjem, A., Wilson, B., MacFadyen, D., Avenant, N., Avery, M. & Palmer, G.

This high-altitude endemic is listed as Least Concern because it has a relatively wide distribution within the assessment region, occurs in several protected areas, including the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area, and because it generally occurs in inaccessible habitats unlikely to be transformed. There are no known threats that could cause rapid population decline. Climate change is not suspected to be an emerging threat. Conversely, density has been estimated to have increased threefold in the Lesotho Drakensberg between 1994 and 2006 possibly due to warmer temperatures. Thus, we list as Least Concern. However, continuing habitat degradation from overgrazing, as well as any other identified minor threats, must be monitored.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Sloggett's Vlei Rat is found at high elevations (>2,000 m) in the Drakensberg Mountains of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa as well as Lesotho (Lynch 1994, Monadjem et al. 2015), with isolated subpopulations from mountains in the Karoo, such as in the Sneeuberg Mountain Complex (Kok et al. 2012), or in dry, semi-desert habitats around inselbergs and mountain ranges at >1,500 m asl. In the Drakensberg Range, O. angoniensis occurs on the lower slopes in savannah habitats, O. auratus and O. laminatus at mid-elevation in grasslands and O. sloggetti at the highest elevations in alpine heath habitats (Monadjem et al. 2015).

Countries occurrence:
Lesotho; South Africa
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):1500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


There have been estimates of the population at over 100 individuals/ha in suitable rocky habitats (Willan 1990). In Lesotho, they are common in the higher areas and may be increasing. A field survey study in 2006 at three localities separated by 70, 80 and 130 km in the north-eastern Lesotho Drakensberg (Sani Valley, Oxbow Motete Valley and Katse Dam) revealed an increase in maximum densities from 110 to 342 animals / hectare between 1992 and 2006 in Oxbow and from 100 to 319 animals / hectare between 2004 and 2006 in Sani Valley (Mokotjomela et al. 2010). Katse Dam had low numbers of Sloggett’s Vlei Rat, possibly due to competition with O. irroratus and/or habitat loss from human settlement expansion (Mokotjomela et al. 2010). Overall, the population increase is possibly due to warming temperatures in the region that reduce winter die-off and increase habitat productivity.

Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Occurs in montane grasslands on xeric or mesic soils, either dry or wet typically amidst piles of loose stones or boulders, both natural and man-made (for example, stone walls). It does not occur in modified habitats, but will sometimes nest in crevices in rock foundations of roads (Willan 1990). They are diurnal and feed on stems, leaves and floral parts of green plants. In the Sani Valley, O. sloggetti feeds on wetland grasses, sedges and herbaceous vegetation but avoid Helichrysum spp. (Schwaibold and Pillay 2010).

It lives in colonies consisting of at least 4-16 individuals and the breeding season occurs between October and March (Hinze 2005). For example, in the Sani Valley, O. sloggettii lives in mixed-sex colonies of up to 17 individuals (Hinze et al. 2013), which construct an intricate underground burrow system in organic and mineral soils (Hinze et al. 2006). Plants taken below ground are used for nesting and there is no evidence of food hoarding (Hinze et al. 2006). Suitable wetland sites in the Sani Valley are home to several colonies and competition for preferred food plants leads to solitary feeding and avoidance between individuals of the same and different colonies (Hinze et al. 2013). Rocky surfaces and boggy soil limits dispersal (Mokotjomela et al. 2010).

It may be an important prey species for predators occurring at high-altitudes. Their extensive burrow systems s contributes to soil turnover and aeration. However, when burrows collapse, the resulting gullies alter water flow, contributing to erosion (Grab and Deschamps 2004).

Generation Length (years):1-2

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

There is anecdotal information of herdsman in Lesotho hunting O. sloggetti. However, this threat remains to be quantified.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

There are no major identified threats to the species. Unlike other Otomys species threatened by climate change (Taylor et al. 2016), population increases in Lesotho are the result of better overwintering of O. sloggetti as a consequence of warmer minimum temperatures over the past two decades (Mokotjomela et al. 2010). Overgrazing the vegetation by domestic livestock and O. sloggetti themselves around wetlands reduces habitat suitability.

This species inhabits high-altitude areas that are unlikely to be transformed significantly. However, overgrazing may reduce habitat quality and this should be monitored. Another important consideration is that the increasing population sizes contribute greatly to habitat change through vegetation loss and consequent soil erosion (Grab and Deschamps 2004). Experimental plots erected in the Sani Valley to investigate the single or combined effects of O. sloggetti and domestic livestock on soil erosion and loss showed that the damage caused by O. sloggetti exceeds that of livestock (Mokotjomela et al. 2009). Therefore, while low temperature and prolonged snowfall are density independent regulators of O. sloggetti populations in Lesotho, diminishing resources (food and suitable nest sites) are possible density-dependent regulators. Correspondingly, an increase in population densities may accelerate soil erosion rates through their feeding and burrowing habits (Mokotjomela et al. 2009).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

It occurs in many protected areas across its range such as the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area (Monadjem et al. 2015) and Mountain Zebra National Park (Kok et al. 2012). Although no specific interventions are necessary at present, wetland conservation and restoration is likely to benefit this species.

Recommendations for land managers and practitioners:

  • Land managers should maintain a vegetation buffer around wetlands to reduce impacts of land-use practices.
  • Land managers should practice holistic management of ranchlands, including de-stocking and rotational grazing.
  • Further long-term, systematic monitoring is needed to establish subpopulation trends and threat levels.

Research priorities:

  • Fine scale studies on habitat loss and inferred impact on the species
  • Effects of overgrazing on the density and viability of this species.
  • Population fluctuations in response to climate change.

Encouraged citizen actions:

Report sightings on virtual museum platforms (for example, iSpot and MammalMAP), especially outside protected areas.

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.7. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.2. Small-holder farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology

Bibliography [top]

Grab, S.W. and Deschamps, C.L. 2004. Geomorphological and geoecological controls and processes following gully development in alpine mires, Lesotho. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 36: 49–58.

Hinze A. 2005. Social behaviour and activity patterns of the African ice rat Otomys skiggetti robertsi. Faculty of Science, School of Biology, University of the Witwatersrand.

Hinze, A., Pillay, N. and Grab, S. 2006. The burrow system of the African ice rat Otomys sloggetti robertsi. Mammalian Biology 71: 356–365.

Hinze, A., Rymer, T. and Pillay, N. 2013. Spatial dichotomy of sociality in the African ice rat. Journal of Zoology 290: 208–214.

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-2. Available at: (Accessed: 14 September 2017).

Kok, A.D., Parker, D.M. and Barker, N.P. 2012. Life on high: the diversity of small mammals at high altitude in South Africa. Biodiversity and Conservation 21: 2823–2843.

Lynch, C.D. 1994. The mammals of Lesotho. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum Bloemfontein 10(4): 177-241.

Mokotjomela, T., Schwaibold, U. and Pillay, N. 2009. Does the ice rat Otomys sloggetti robertsi contribute to habitat change in Lesotho? Acta Oecologica 35: 437–443.

Mokotjomela, T., Schwaibold, U. and Pillay, N. 2010. Population surveys of the ice rat Otomys sloggetti robertsi in the Lesotho Drakensberg. African Zoology 45: 225–232.

Monadjem, A., Taylor, P.J., Denys, C. and Cotterill, F.P.D. 2015. Rodents of Sub-Saharan Africa - a biogeographic and taxonomic synthesis. De Gruyter, Berlin/Munich/Boston.

Pacifici, M., Santini, L., Di Marco, M., Baisero, D., Francucci, L., Grottolo Marasini, G., Visconti, P. and Rondinini, C. 2013. Generation length for mammals. Nature Conservation 5: 87–94.

Schwaibold, U. and Pillay, N. 2010. Habitat use in The Ice Rat Otomys slogetti robertsi. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 40: 64–72.

Taylor, P.J., Denys, C. and Mukerjee, M. 2004. Phylogeny of the African murid tribe Otomyini (Rodentia), based on morphological and allozyme evidence. Zoologica Scripta 33: 389–402.

Taylor, P.J., Nengovhela, A., Linden, J. and Baxter, R.M. 2016. Past, present, and future distribution of Afromontane rodents (Muridae: Otomys) reflect climate-change predicted biome changes. Mammalia 80: 359–375.

Willan, K. 1990. Reproductive biology of the southern African ice rat. Acta Theriologica 35: 39–51.

Citation: Pillay, N., Taylor, P., Baxter, R. & Child, M.F. 2017. Otomys sloggetti. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T15659A110019838. . Downloaded on 20 September 2017.
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