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Long-Lost Rat Species Rediscovered in Philippines


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A giant rat species last seen 37 years ago and feared extinct has been seen again on the Philippines island of Dinagat.

Crateromys australis, or the Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat, belongs to a family of tree-dwelling, leaf-eating rats found only in the Philippines and growing up to 2.5 feet long.

Each of the six cloud rat species is threatened or endangered, but the Dinagat is especially rare: The last time it was sighted was also the first time it was sighted, and several expeditions launched during the past decade to find another Dinagat came home empty-handed. It is officially considered critically endangered and possibly extinct.

Early in January, Czech researchers with the Tarsius Project, a conservation organization devoted to saving the the rare Philippine tarsier, happened across the elusive rodent by accident.

“One evening we sat in the forest and waited to find the tarsiers. Suddenly the cloud rat came to my husband. We weren’t sitting together, we were 1,000 feet apart, and he sent me a text message: ‘There’s a rat with a black-and-white tail. It could be the cloud rat!’” said zoologist Milada Řeháková, the Tarsius Project’s team leader.

Posted Image

A Dinagat cloud rat. Last seen in 1975 and feared extinct, it was rediscovered by accident. Image: Milada Řeháková and Vaclav Rehak/Tarsius Project

However, Řeháková’s husband — not a zoologist, but a computer programmer helping out on the trip — didn’t have a camera, and the rat vanished by the time Milada reached him.

“It would be just a story that the programmer saw something that he couldn’t prove,” Řeháková said. “We spent the next week trying to find it again.”

Their patience paid off: They encountered a Dinagat cloud rat twice more. Their video is the first ever taken of the species, which was known from a single specimen collected near a logging road in 1975.

The rats’ identity was later verified, and Řeháková reported the rediscovery at a meeting of the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines on Apr. 17.

According to Řeháková, the rats walked to within a few feet of the couple, displaying a lack of wariness that’s made other cloud rat species a tragically easy target for hunters.

“There are not many hunters on that island, which is in contrast to other islands, where poaching and hunting are very frequent,” she said. “But I’m not sure this is enough to secure the species’ survival. There are not many forests left on Dinagat island. Everything is either clear-cut or covered by mining claims. The forest will be cut down as mining continues. If someone doesn’t protect the area, the cloud rats will disappear.”

:view:Original Article: Wired

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