We have just heard some exciting news from our friend Sameer Bajaru, at the Bombay Natural History Society. Several years ago, we supported his work looking at how to protect one of India’s most threatened animals: the Kondana soft-furred rat.
A truly unique species
These special rats are only found in a tiny locality in the northern Western Ghats, India. As well as this Kondana rats are even more challenging to study because they are nocturnal and live in burrows on the Sinhgad fort. However the area Sameer is working in has a very high human population density. Much of the natural grassland and forest have been cut down to create agricultural land and settlements. So he and his team put out live traps to see what species are using the different habitat patches. Also they studied how the general mosaic of habitats in the immediate landscape impacts different species. Kondana rats like grasslands with shrubs, which provides shelter and safety from predators and harsh environmental conditions.
Sameer contacted us to report his findings have been published. His results show that although they can cope with some level of disturbance of habitat when it becomes too patchy and varied, it appears that they don’t survive. They weren’t found in locations that had largely been converted to agriculture. Many other small mammal species were found to do well in this disturbed landscape. However, Kondana rats, which are specialist rodents, are sensitive to change and need large patches of grasslands, their secure habitat.
A future for Kondana rats
So Sameer is now using his published findings to recommend that measures are put in place to prevent any further loss of the grasslands with shrubs, especially those located on high-elevation (> 1200m). This is the habitat Kondana rats rely on and must become protected by the State Forest Department. We hope his recommendations are taken on-board for the long-term survival of this unique rat.