As a result of our ongoing surveys within the Menabe-Antimena protected area in Madagascar, the Durrell team is delighted to have captured what are believed to be the first videos of the Endangered Malagasy giant jumping rat in the wild. This species is increasingly threatened by forest loss and this footage provides a welcome positive sign for our work to conserve this species.
The surveys are being conducted in partnership with the IUCN Small Mammal Specialist Group; through a grant from the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. The team undertaking the research is being headed up by Anselme Toto Volahy, who has a wealth of experience surveying this species, and Leslie Wilmet, Durrell’s Head of Species Conservation and Research in Madagascar. The grant has enabled urgent surveys to be conducted to ascertain the status of this charismatic but elusive species. In order to produce a more robust population estimate than on previous attempts, camera traps were deployed to monitor burrow activity for the first time. As a result of these efforts, the team has managed to capture what could be the first-ever camera trap footage of this species in the wild.
Malagasy giant jumping rats are large, nocturnal, forest-dwelling rodents, found only within the Menabe-Antimena protected area. Despite the forests within central Menabe being classified as a conservation hotspot, large swathes of habitat have been lost over the last century, vastly reducing the range of this species, where it now remains in two isolated areas separated by the Mandroatra River.
This forest loss is ongoing, mostly as a result of drought in the south of the island which is driving people north where they convert forest to produce cash crops, such as peanut and maize. As a consequence, current projections estimate that if present forest loss trends continue, the giant jumping rat will see a reduction in its range of over 40% by 2030, putting this species in need of urgent conservation actions.
Tom Dando, Programme Assistant at the IUCN Small Mammal Specialist groups says, “It’s great to finally see footage of these wonderful animals in the wild. Malagasy giant jumping rats are increasingly being threatened by deforestation and encroachment within an already limited range. These surveys will really help us to understand the current situation and what subsequent actions are needed. There is a lot of work to be done to secure their future, but this a very uplifting start to the surveys.”
Durrell has been working in Madagascar for over 30 years and has been involved with this species since establishing the first captive ‘safety net’ population in 1990. This project therefore represents a continuation in the mission to conserve this species and its habitats, of which re-establishing a stable population level is a critical first step.
It is hoped this exciting news will help bring the plight of this species into focus and will enable Durrell and our partners to gather an evidence-base that can direct conservation action for this imperiled species. The surveys have only just got underway and it is hoped more footage and vital data will continue to be received over the coming months, from which the next steps in the conservation of this species can be informed.