Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Feared extinct, large rat species 'rediscovered' on Dinagat Island - via Chad Arment

A Dinagat cloud rat was spotted in the forest tree tops on Dinagat Island in northern Mindanao last January by zoologist Milada Reháková-Petru and her new husband, Václav, who shot a video of the rat for the first time, according to information provided by the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (PBCF). Both are from the Czech Republic. 

William Oliver of the PBCF, co-author of a new paper reporting the "rediscovery" of the rodent species, said Reháková-Petru had called him from the island "jibbering with excitement and frustration" because while her husband had seen it, she had not. They then both saw the species together the next day. 

Only in Dinagat

The endemic Dinagat cloud rat (Crateromys australis) is found only on Dinagat Island, further proof of the Philippines' importance in global biodiversity. 

The country is also known as a "biodiversity hotspot" for the preponderance of threats to a wide range of species found only in the Philippines. Much of Dinagat Island is covered by mining claims, which if pursued could destroy the forest habitats of the cloud rat and many other species. 

According to a paper by the PBCF, the Dinagat Cloud Rat had not been seen by scientists since 1975, when the legendary Filipino zoologist Dr. Dioscoro Rabor brought back a specimen, which is now preserved in the American Museum of Natural History. Scientific surveys since 1975 had failed to find more specimens, leading some scientists to surmise that the species had become extinct. 

It is now considered "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Rabor also discovered an endemic insectivore on the island related to hedgehogs, the endangered Dinagat moonrat (Podogymnura aureospinula). 

Czech zoologist Reháková-Petru was actually on Dinagat Island in search of Philippine tarsiers, her specialization. She did not see any, but was startled to hear the calls of what she speculated was the Dinagat cloud rat. Her husband Václav, a computer programmer who was accompanying her to learn more about her passion for rare Philippine mammals, was watching for tarsiers in another part of the forest when he spotted the Dinagat cloud rat. 

The couple returned to the same spot the next day and succeeded in photographing and videotaping the species, producing evidence for the scientific community that it was not extinct, and had simply been rare and elusive.

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