A 9-year-old endangered Pacific pocket mouse raised by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance received a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS on Wednesday for being the oldest living mouse in humane care.
Pat the Pacific pocket mouse was fondly named after actor Sir Patrick Stewart. He was born on July 14, 2013, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in the first year of the organization’s Pacific pocket mouse conservation breeding and reintroduction program. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, along with local and regional partners, held a ceremony to commemorate pat’s significant age.
According to officials at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Pat was 9 years and 209 days old when he received the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title.
“This recognition is so special for our team, and is significant for the species,” said Debra Shier, Ph.D., Brown Endowed Associate Director of Recovery Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “It's indicative of the dedication and incredible care we as an organization provide for each species, from the largest to the very smallest,”
Shier said this acknowledgment is also a symbol of appreciation for species that people don't know much about because they’re not charismatic mega fauna, but are just as critical for our ecosystem function. Shier noted these overlooked species can be found in our backyards—like the Pacific pocket mouse.
Since then, the species had been reduced to just a few small populations, isolated from one another by long-distance barriers. The breed weighs the same as about three pennies and earned its name from pouches in their cheeks used to carry food and nesting materials.
“The GUINNESS WORD RECORDS title is a win for all the tiny but mighty—and often overlooked species around the world that play an important role in their ecosystems,” reads a statement from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
This commemoration comes on the heels of a historic Pacific pocket mouse breeding season in 2022, according to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, recording a total of 117 pups during the spring and summer months. Many of these mice will be introduced to natural habitats this spring.
Pacific pocket mice are native to coastal scrublands, dunes, and riverbanks within 2 miles of the ocean. Because of human encroachment and habitat degradation, their numbers dropped sharply after 1922. They were thought to be extinct for until a tiny remnant population was discovered in 1994 at Orange County’s Dana Point headlands.
The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance conservation breeding program began in 2012 after continued declines in the species population. The organization also studies behavior, ecology, genetics, microbiome, and physiology to best support genetically diverse, healthy, and behaviorally competent mice that are prepared for reintroduction to their natural habitats.
The mice play a crucial role in ecosystems by dispersing the seeds of native plants and encouraging plant growth through their digging activities.