We previously introduced you to Flossie, the world’s oldest living cat, and Bobi, the oldest dog on record. Now, meet Pat. At the whopping age of 9 years and 209 days old, he’s just been dubbed the oldest living mouse in human care by Guinness World Records.
The fantastically named Pacific pocket mouse is the smallest mouse species in North America. They may only weigh the equivalent of about three pennies, but don’t be fooled – the role these cuties play in their ecosystems far outweighs their diminutive size. They’re vital for plant life, encouraging growth and helping to disperse seeds as they busily burrow and dig in the dirt.
Pat – fondly named after veteran actor Sir Patrick Stewart – is a resident at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where he was born in 2013. The organization has been at the forefront of conservation efforts in recent years, but for a while this species was actually thought to have already gone extinct.
In fact, scientists labored under this misapprehension for 20 years before a small population was rediscovered back in 1994. From previously being found all the way from Los Angeles to the southernmost border of San Diego County, there are now only three wild populations of Pacific pocket mice left – and these are so tiny, that the species is still considered under threat of extinction.
At San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, a conservation breeding program was established 11 years ago. Researchers carefully study the genetics and behavior of the mice to ensure that, when the time comes, individuals can be released back into the wild with all the skills they need to forage for food and evade predators.
As successful as the program has been so far, with a record 31 litters of pups being born during the 2022 season, reaching such a grand old age makes little Pat truly exceptional.
“This recognition is so special for our team, and is significant for the species,” said Dr Debra Shier, who established and still oversees the conservation breeding program, in a statement.
“This acknowledgement is also a symbol of appreciation for species that people don’t know much about because they’re not charismatic megafauna, but are just as critical for ecosystem function. These overlooked species can often be found in our own backyards – like the Pacific pocket mouse.”