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Helping moonrats and hairy-tailed rats survive on Dinagat island

Mining threatens endemic fauna

The island of Dinagat, which is a distinct microcosm of the Philippine archipelago, is a biodiversity hotspot. It’s small – just 800km2 – but important. Home to several endemic species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. And it’s also under threat. Why? Primarily because of habitat loss.

A presidential proclamation declared the entire island a mineral reservation area since 1939. Currently, over half of the island’s land area is already being mined or has been allocated for future extraction activities, leading to habitat degradation and loss. This means that all the endemic – and other – species that make their home on Dinagat are also under threat. This includes two small mammal species: the Dinagat Moonrat and the Dinagat Hairy-tailed Rat.  Unfortunately, little is known about their life history or ecology, even how many there are and where they are found.

Preventing further habitat loss for moonrats and hairy-tailed rats

We need to find out where they are and what types of habitat they prefer. If we can identify areas where they are found and doing well, we can take action to protect these areas.

So PTES is supporting Jay Fidelino and the Biodiversity Research Laboratory to do just that. Jay and his team going to travel to Mount Redondo, the highest peak on Dinagat Island, to search for these small creatures. Using live traps and camera traps, the team will see how abundant these two species are in four different habitat types on the mountain and its surrounding lowlands. They’ll investigate the lowland evergreen forest, lower and upper montane forests, and forests which grow on a particular type of igneous rock.

This information about which types of forest habitat the moonrats and hairy-tailed rats prefer, will then be used to strengthen support for existing programmes which are looking to protect the remaining forests on Dinagat Island. One of these is the local government’s Dinagat Islands Conservation Program (DICP). The DICP is an initiative by the provincial government and the local environment department to push for legislation that will exclude certain areas on the island from the mineral extraction. While this is just the first of many steps, the ultimate hope is to halt habitat loss on Dinagat Island, before these unique small mammals disappear in the wild.

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