A Dinagat Island cloud rat, belonging to the biggest and most beautiful rodents of the world, endemic to only one tiny island of the world – Dinagat Island, Philippines, was rediscovered. This species was captured only once in the history, 37 years ago. It belongs to critically endangered species, and was even feared to be extinct until early 2012, when it was observed and video recorded by a scientific couple from Czech Republic.
Cloud rats are the biggest (body size 30-70 cm) and most spectacular murids of the world, endemic only to a few Philippine Islands. They are nocturnal arboreal animals. The Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat (Crateromys australis) is the least known among them. So far, it was known only from one specimen captured in 1975. Since then number of scientific expeditions have searched for this elusive species, but with no success. It changed in early 2012 when a programmer Václav Řehák accompanying his wife, zoologist Milada Řeháková on a survey of Dinagat Island tarsiers spotted a huge hairy grey-brown rat with hairy and conspicuously black-white tail searching in the canopy. William Oliver of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, said that Řeháková had called him from the island “full of excitement and frustration” because while her husband had seen it, she had not. Finally, they both saw the cloud rat a week later. The exciting rediscovery was scientifically confirmed and this species was video documented for the first time ever.
This species is endemic to the small Dinagat Island (only 967 square kilometers), where chromite and nickel mining mining and logging poses a serious threat to all wildlife. The island is also home to two other rodents found no-where else, including the Dinagat moon rat (Podogymnura aureospinula) and the Dinagat hairy-tailed rat (Batomys russatus), both considered Endangered. The island’s dwindling forests also contain populations of the Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia); the white-winged flying fox (Pteropus leucopterus); the crested lizard (Hydrosaurus pustulatus), and the Philippine tarsier (Carlito syrichta). The Philippines are considered a global biodiversity hotspot, but many of its species are on the edge of extinction. Only one small locally protected area exists on the whole island.
Therefore the scientists, including the couple who rediscovered the species and experts from Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, have carefully prepared further conservation strategies. “Effective conservation activities must be undertaken to assure future survival of this, once lost and now rediscovered species. Local people should be proud on this unique species that is not found anywhere else in the world and should be part of its conservation”, emphasizes Dr. Milada Řeháková.