Roll up! Roll up! Read all about it! Rodents in the spotlight as new ‘Handbook of Mammals of the World’ is out

Of all the mammal species alive today, 41% belong to a single order – the rodents. They have been around for over 50 million years and are found in almost every available habitat on Earth.

We are excited to announce that Durrell’s Dr Richard Young and Dr Ros Kennerley have recently co-authored the opening special chapter in the new Handbook of the Mammals of the World - Volume 7 Rodents II which came out at the end of 2017. The title of the chapter is ‘Conserving the biodiversity of the largest order of mammals: priorities and actions for the Rodentia’. The chapter summarises the Red Listing reassessment work that the IUCN SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group (SMSG) has been undertaking, outlines their strategy and activities, and highlights some of the key species and key regions in which they are beginning to operate.

Rodents tend to get bad press because of the negative effects of species like the black rat (Rattus rattus) and the house mouse (Mus musculus), which have piggy-backed on human trade and travel to cross oceans and invade new continents. These few invaders are thriving in the face of worldwide declines in biodiversity, with the result that endangered rodents rarely gain much attention on the conservation stage. This unpopularity means that we know much less about rodents than most other orders of mammal and, unfortunately, those rodent species needing the most urgent help are often the least understood. Volume 7 brings to life the staggering variety of rodents throughout the continents, presenting some of the recent developments in our knowledge of rodents and demonstrating how these discoveries have led to changes in the conservation status of some species on the IUCN Red List.

This is the first publication to result from the specialist group, with authorship from our team at Durrell, three members of the team based at Texas A&M University, and the SMSG Conservation Advisor Sam Turvey, based at ZSL. The SMSG works to support people conserving small mammals in the wild to generate global support and attention for small mammal species as important conservation targets. The group focuses on rodents, tree shrews, hedgehogs, moles, shrews and solenodons, directing their efforts to geographic regions and individual species where their help will have most impact. The details of the SMSG strategy, including their geographic, species and partnership priorities, the rationale behind the strategy, and how the group will continue to develop itself and its impact are discussed in their special chapter. The chapter includes descriptions of some of the most endangered rodent species in need of conservation effort and these accounts have beautiful illustrations of the species alongside them.