The Damara mole-rat is a burrowing rodent found in southern Africa. It has a cylindrical body with short, stout limbs, large feet, and a conical head. The animal doesn't have external ears, and its blue-colored eyes are tiny with thick eyelids. The incisor teeth are large and prominent, with flaps of skin behind them to prevent soil from falling into the throat while the mole-rat is using them to dig. The fur is short and thick, and varies from fawn to almost black, with shades of brown being most common. There is always a white patch on the top of the head, although its exact shape varies, and there may also be additional blotches of white fur elsewhere on the body. There are longer sensory hairs that project above the fur over much of the body and the facial whiskers are particularly long.
Damara mole-rats are found across much of southern Africa, including Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They inhabit warm, semi-arid environments dominated by savannah scrubland or sandy grasslands. They are most commonly associated with red Kalahari psamments (sands) and sandy soils.
Damaraland mole-rats live in networks of tunnels, which they dig with their front teeth. These tunnels are 65 to 75 mm (2.6 to 3 in) in diameter and may stretch for up to 1 km (0.62 mi). They have no connection to the surface and as a result, the tunnels develop their own microclimate, containing warm, moist air, with low oxygen levels. The burrow system consists primarily of foraging tunnels, which the mole-rats dig in search of food; there are also storage chambers beneath the foraging tunnels. The foraging tunnels are typically only 5 to 25 cm (2 to 9.8 in) beneath the soil but are connected to a smaller number of deep tunnels that lead down to the storage chambers, latrines, and a central nest that may be as much as 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) underground. Each burrow system is inhabited by a single colony of mole-rats that can range from as little as 2 to as many as 40 members. The colony consists of a single breeding pair and their non-reproductive offspring. The non-reproductive members of the colony spend their time foraging and maintaining the tunnel system, in particular closing any breaches that may occur. Damaraland mole-rats are active primarily during the day and rarely leave their burrows. They are not very vocal, making only some birdlike chirps. If the breeding female dies, most surviving members of the colony disperse to new locations. Particularly large individuals may also leave the colony to establish a new burrow system. New colonies are established by unrelated males and females, which become the new breeding pair.
Damaraland mole-rats are herbivores and feed only on tubers, corms, and bulbs. They do not drink, obtaining all their water from their food, which is also an important source of minerals.
Damaraland mole-rats are monogamous and only the breeding pair within a colony is capable of reproduction. Non-reproductive individuals are able to reproduce if they establish a colony of their own. The breeding female initiates courtship by calling and drumming with her hind feet. The pair then chase each other in a right circle before mating. The gestation period lasts 78 to 92 days and females can produce up to 3 litters of 1 to 6 pups per year. The pups are born hairless, with closed eyes, and only weigh 8 or 9 grams. They are weaned after 28 days and reach adult size after around 14 months.
There are no major threats to the Damaraland mole-rat at present.
According to IUCN, the Damaraland mole-rat is locally common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Damaraland mole-rats aerate and turn the soil in their environment due to their extensive tunneling work and their tunnels help to supply water to deep-rooted trees.