Click to read: Speak up for small mammals

Speak up for small mammals

As you might have read in our recent blog by Dr Ros Kennerley, 2016 was a huge year for the IUCN SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group (SMSG), but 2017 is set to be even bigger, and today we have some exciting news to share! Let us introduce you to our new strategic partnership to conserve small mammals. We are expanding in size, and together with Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Durrell), and Texas A&M University, we intend to make sure that small mammal species worldwide receive more conservation effort and research.

Santa Marta Toro (Santamartaamys rufodoralis) - Phoyo credit Lizzie Noble (bottom, left)

In a nutshell, up until now small mammals have been overlooked in favour of larger charismatic mammals. They have in general been understudied and under-represented in terms of both conservation funding and actions. This means that for the majority of the more than 2,800 species within the SMSG there is a lack of even basic ecological knowledge and very few people are working to conserve them. This joint initiative, made possible by the generous support of GWC, will allow us to bring together a range of expertise, so that we can achieve effective conservation action to secure the future of small mammals. We will ensure that we can strategically set priorities, as well as implement practical conservation actions in the field.

So, we’ve come up with a plan. We will implement three programmes of work to make some positive moves to encourage people to care, research and help to conserve small mammals:


1)    Promoting small mammal conservation within the world’s leading zoos

We believe zoos should be playing a much greater role in captive breeding for conservation purposes and provide greater funding and expertise to in-situ conservation efforts in the field. But, how can we get the zoo community more involved? To do this, we first need to better understand why certain species are currently held in collections. For example, what barriers do zoo curators face when changing their collections to include more threatened small mammal species, and what incentives and support will they require in order to bring about these positive changes to their collections? Once we have this information we plan to undertake a number of ex-situ needs assessments, which will involve bringing experts together for a series of regional planning workshops.


2)    Developing champions for key small mammal species

Individuals and small organisations can play a huge role in championing species conservation efforts, and ultimately this can lead to site-level protection programmes. We will identify key species using a variety of prioritisation methods. Once individuals or organisations have been found, we will help to build capacity within them to support small mammal conservation: these could include assistance with funding and training opportunities, providing guidance with research activities, putting them in touch with members of our network, and facilitating action planning. We want to excite people about SMSG species, and hopefully they will then go on to inspire other researchers and conservationists to work on them too.

Hispaniolan hutia (Plagiodontia aedium) courtesy of The Last Survivors project (bottom, right)

3)    Building conservation capacity in key small mammal regions

Hispaniolan hutia (Plagiodontia aedium) courtesy of The Last Survivors project:

By identifying key geographical regions to begin conservation efforts, we can have maximum benefits to a whole suite of small mammal species. The SMSG, alongside many other important partners, has been working hard to complete the IUCN Red List reassessments for small mammals. To date, they have reassessed more than 2,000 species! We will use the results of this work to determine where there are particularly high densities of Globally Threatened and also Data Deficient species. We can then focus our efforts on these regions. For example, we can encourage expeditions to these areas to get vital information on poorly known species, allowing us to better understand the threats to species in these areas.


Strengthening partnerships for small mammal conservation

We have a strong and dedicated team in place to deliver these three programmes of work. The SMSG has teams in the UK at Durrell and in the United States at Texas A&M University. They are responsible for driving the taxonomic and ecological research for the group, and promoting conservation actions. Together they have a wide range of experience in carrying out species-level and site-level conservation projects. GWC will be involved in a strategic role, helping with the design and decisions associated with these various programmes of work. Their experience in capacity building, explorations and habitat conservation will be invaluable to the initiative—we can’t wait to get started!

For more information please visit

Twitter handle: @IUCN_SMSG

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Posted 23 March 2017

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