Jerboas form the majority of rodents within the family Dipodidae although it also includes birch mice and jumping mice. Jerboas are desert rodents found throughout Asia and Northern Africa. In the wild they sleep in burrows ranging from simple ones used primarily to escape predators and elaborate ones with multiple entrances, food storage and nesting areas.
They have powerful, long back legs for jumping and are nocturnal. They can leap upto three feet and some variants can survive with little or no water. It is vital therefore to ensure their diet includes sufficient fresh produce such as alfalfaa sprouts, carrots, cucumber, kale, parsley, red and green ball peppers. Must be leaves and roots though, never fruit. A basic mix of a high quality canary mix plus millet should also be offered. Hay should also be given to aid digestion. Additional protein can be offered in the form of rehydrated lentils. The health of a Jerboa can be determined by the thickness of their tail, an ill or malnourished individual would have a thin tail with protruding vertebrae.
Jerboas are currently very rare in the pet trade and this is due to the difficulty of getting them to breed in captivity. It is therefore vital that only experienced keepers attempt to breed them and that people rehome older animals already in captivity. Otherwise these animals may have been wild-caught which could lead to depleteing the wild populations.
The most common Jerboas found in the pet trade are the Lesser Egyptian Jerboa (Jaculus jaculus) which as of 2011 were selling for just under £200 a pair and the Greater Egyptian Jerboa (Jaculus orientalis). The Pygmy Jerboa and four-toed Jerboa were available around 2000-2003 but have since became extremely scarce. Political situations in their home environment mean imports are unlikely to happen for some time.
Jerboa need a great deal of space, due to their speed and ability to jump quite high when startled. If attempting to breed jerboas, it is even more important to provide a sizeable environment and provide some enviornmental triggers such as temperature and live vegetation. It has been reported that Greater Jerboa and Lesser Jerboa can co-habit successfully, however this should only be done if a large enough environment can be supplied.
Jerboas are not yet at the state where they could be considered good pets, remaining very wary and secretive. Although they are reported to rarely bite they are capable of delivering a very powerful kick if scared or angry.