Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Naked Mole-Rat

Heterocephalus glaber

Naked mole rats, also known as sand puppies, are burrowing rodents native to parts of East Africa. They live in underground colonies like those of many insects.

Range & Habitat

Underground within the hard and arid soils of savannahs and grasslands within Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia. 

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Least Concern; however, habitat fragmentation may lead to a decrease in their population.


In the Wild: Roots, bulbs, and tubers.

At the Zoo: Yams, nuts, green beans, grapes, apples, romaine and rodent blocks.

Life Span

In the Wild: 10-20 years; In Human Care: Up to 30 years.

Fun Facts about the Naked Mole-Rat

  • Despite their name, naked mole-rats are not completely naked. They actually have hair between their toes to help them sweep soil aside as they dig, and they have whiskers on their face and tails to help them better sense their surroundings.
  • Naked mole-rats dig narrow tunnels that are not large enough to turn around in. Due to this, naked mole-rats can effectively run both forward and backward throughout their tunnels.
  • Naked mole-rats have powerful jaws and large front teeth called incisors that they use to dig their tunnels. In order to help keep dirt from entering their mouths when they dig, their lips actually close behind their incisors.
  • Naked mole rats don’t drink water; they get all the hydration they need from their plant-based diet.
  • Scientists recently discovered that naked mole rats can go as long as 18 minutes without oxygen.


Gan, G. (2020, February 28). Naked Mole-Rats: Live Slow, Die Old. Retrieved May 21, 2020, from

Naked mole-rat. (2019, September 20). Retrieved May 21, 2020, from

Naked Mole-rat. (2020). Retrieved May 21, 2020, from

Pappas, S. (2018, January 30). Weird: Naked Mole Rats Don't Die of Old Age. Retrieved May 21, 2020, from

Updated September 26, 2020