The zoo wants to build a new home for its naked mole-rats, which have lips that close BEHIND its big incisors, enabling them to dig without ingesting dirt. (Smithsonian National Zoo photo)

On the day dubbed "Giving Tuesday" the National Zoo tried to raise money for a new home for a pocket-sized animal that seemed to have qualities ideal in many human endeavors. These might even include politics and writing about politics.

It's the naked mole-rat, which can dig dirt without swallowing it. A mammal that measures a mere three inches in length, the naked mole-rat bands with fellows to build long tunnels by digging through dirt. Some tunnels may extend for as much as 2.5 miles, the zoo said.

Among the assets provided by nature to this pink-skinned digger is one that might seem to be of value to reporters who dig for facts in such fields as politics. In its digging, the zoo said, the mole-rat is distinctive in its ability to excavate "without getting a mouthful of dirt."

The naked mole-rat digs with his teeth. These incisors hold a prominent position at the front of the rat's face. But rather than show up behind the animals' lips, like the teeth of most creatures, the rat's teeth appear in front

As a result, the mole-rat's lips can clamp shut behind its digging equipment, "enabling them to dig without getting a mouthful of dirt!" the zoo said. Anyone involved in excavation would recognize the benefit of that.

Their lack of hair makes them seem naked, protected only by a wrinkled layer of thin skin, notably different from the fur coats worn by many other small mammals. On exhibit in that state, they race through tubes and chambers, the zoo said.


The zoo's naked mole-rats currently do their digging inside the Small Mammal House, the zoo said.

But the zoo would like a corner habitat for them, new digs, it might be said, with what the zoo called more realistic tunnels, where the rats can be watched up close.

To provide such a dream home for the naked mole-rats, the zoo said it needed to raise $100,000 by year's end.