giant rat Vika
© Tyrone Lavery
Vika rat
A favorite tale among residents of the Solomon Islands is the legend of the mythical monster rat known as Vika, who can climb trees, break open rock-shelled nuts with its teeth and cause cats to die in fright with just a look. That last legend is mine, but the rest are no longer scary campfire tales - the mythical Vika has been discovered alive and well on Vangunu Island.
"When I first met with the people from Vangunu Island in the Solomons, they told me about a rat native to the island that they called vika, which lived in the trees."
Mammalogist Tyrone Lavery reports in the Journal of Mammalology first came to the Solomon Islands in 2010 to look for new species in this isolated country of 900 islands east of Papua New Guinea and best known to most people for the World War II naval battles fought there, especially on Guadalcanal. Lavery immediately heard rumors of a giant tree-climbing nut-cracking rat but he doubted its existence, thinking at first that the native people were making up stories about common black rats.

"If you're looking for something that can live in 30-foot-tall trees, then there's a whole new dimension that you need to search."

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