The Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat (Crateromys australis) has been rediscovered in the wild after nearly 40 years in hiding. With a body size of around 30-70cm and a tri-coloured tail, the Dinagat cloud rat is arguably one of the most spectacular murids, endemic only to the Philippines and unfortunately also critically endangered.
The Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat is the most mysterious species of the Crateromys genus, known only from a single specimen captured during a survey in 1975. The same survey found another EDGE species, the Dinagat moon-rat (Podogymnura aureospinula) and the Dinagat hairy-tailed rat (Batomys russatus), both of which are now classified as Endangered by the IUCN. Conservationists worldwide had feared the Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat to be extinct and had given up hope of ever finding it again after a number of scientific expeditions had proved fruitless, but suddenly in january 2012 it was rediscovered by a couple from the Czech Republic.
A computer programmer, Václav Řehák, was helping his zoologist wife Dr Milada Řeháková to conduct a 10-day study on Philippine tarsiers and collect information from residents on the possible existence of the Dinagat cloud rat, based on previous surveys initiated by the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (PBCFI).
While searching the canopy for tarsiers late at night, Václav inadvertently caught sight of a large brown rodent-like creature with a conspicuously black and white tail climbing and foraging in the undergrowth nearby. When Václav told his wife, Milada called Dr William Oliver of the PBCFI from the island “full of excitement and frustration” because while her husband had seen it, she had not.
They kept going back to the same area and finally a week later saw the cloud rat again. In total they had three separate encounters where the couple managed to record still and video footage of the Dinagat bushy-tailed cloud rat. The exciting rediscovery was scientifically confirmed on their return from the expedition.
Watch the Dinagat Cloud Rat Footage (used by permission, © Milada Řeháková/Václav Řehák)
On Dinagat Island, the increase of chromite mining and deforestation poses a serious threat to all wildlife, including the bushy-tailed cloud rat. Only one small locally protected area exists on the whole island. Scientists including the couple who rediscovered the species and experts from PBCFI have carefully prepared further conservation strategies.
Dr Řeháková will officially present their findings to the scientific community for the first time at the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines symposium, which runs from the 17th-20th of April in the Philippines.
Milada Řeháková-Petrů has been involved in conservation of the Philippine fauna since 2007. She is a leader of the Tarsius project focused on conservation of the Philippine tarsier. Info: [email protected]
William L. R. Oliver has focused on research of cloud rat species all over the Philippines since the 1990s, and has published several papers about their conservation. He is the leader of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme. Info: [email protected]