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The case of the Stephens' kangaroo rat is being called a conservation success

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have an update now on the survival of a cute, little rat. A species of kangaroo rat has made it off the endangered species list.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Its formal name is the nocturnal Stephens' kangaroo rat - small enough to fit in your palm, and its name suggests exactly what it looks like. It has oversized hind legs like a kangaroo.

DEBRA SHIER: Their bipedal body stance allows them to ricochet sideways and backwards and even launch themselves into the air a few feet when they're defending themselves from predators.

MARTINEZ: Debra Shier is associate director of Recovery Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. The rodent is part of the ecosystem in parts of Southern California.

SHIER: They're primary seed dispersers of the native plants. They're prey for many species of snakes and small mammals, like weasels, and also owls.

INSKEEP: Of course, you need wildland to be able to do that. And Shier says real estate development has been encroaching on the rat's natural habitat. That's why it was endangered. Now its numbers are up to where it's classified only as threatened, a recovery that came from setting aside land that has the kind of vegetation the rat can thrive on, like open shrublands or native grasslands.

MARTINEZ: Debra Shier says the rat's long-term survival will take long-term conservation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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