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Naked Mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History of Managed Care

Zoos, general

  • Common in zoos, worldwide (Maree and Faulkes 2016)

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

  • June 1992: naked mole-rat exhibit opens at Children’s Zoo (Scharf 1992; Courtney 1993)
    • 17 individuals transferred from Philadelphia Zoo
    • Inspires Naked Mole-rat Appreciation Days at the Zoo
      • Included San Diego Zoo Naked Mole-rat Appreciation Days
    • Husbandry notes
      • Housed in acrylic plastic tubes and chambers that mimic natural habitat
      • Music used to reduce disturbance from outside noise
        • Noisy environments cause stress
  • 2010s: Colony of bachelor males used as animal ambassadors (Kym Janke, personal communication, 2019)


(Kym Janke, personal communication, 2019)


  • Very active animals
  • Chew on objects continuously
  • Easy to handle

Shelters and enclosures

  • Prefer warm, humid burrow conditions
    • Temperature
      • About 27 to 29°C (80 to 85°F)
    • Humidity
      • 45 to 85%
      • Humid air keeps skin moist and flexible
  • Bedding
    • Materials
      • Paper towels, moistened
      • Cardboard
      • Wood shavings (untreated) (e.g., pine)
    • Naked mole-rats shred bedding for nests
      • Often move nesting material
  • Required structures for artificial burrows
    • Latrine chamber
    • Nest chamber
    • Tunnels
  • Strong teeth; chew through acrylic tubes provided for burrow system
  • Enclosure maintenance
    • Only water used; cleaning agents disrupt colony scent

Social interactions

  • Life of colony structured by scent
  • Colony members must be kept together
  • Individual cannot be away from group longer than about 4 hours (e.g., if requires medical treatment)
    • Loss of distinct colony scent results in rejection by other colony members

Diet in managed care

  • Mainly produce and root vegetables
    • Lettuce, cabbage
    • Yam
    • Jicama
    • Eggplant
    • Tomato
    • Frozen peas
  • Also beans
    • Pinto and garbanzo

Enrichment and training

  • Materials/objects to shred and chew
    • Wood, untreated
    • Tubers wedged in tunnels
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Hides; often chew them
  • Digging


Live camera feeds

Room to Run

Naked mole-rats run in acrylic tube

Naked mole-rats are very active animals.

In managed care, they need tunnel systems to run through and objects to gnaw on.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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