Formed in 2011, the IUCN SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group (SMSG) is an expanding global network of scientists and conservationists who share a passion for the world’s rodents, shrews, moles, solenodons, hedgehogs and tree-shrews. Our mission is to serve as the “global authority on the world’s  small mammals through developing a greater scientific understanding of their diversity, status and threats, and by promoting effective conservation action  to secure their future”.

Our volunteer members conduct fieldwork, lab research and donate their time and knowledge to improve the world’s scientific understanding of the taxonomy, ecology and conservation status of over 2800 of these often poorly known species. We promote conservation actions on the ground for species of conservation concern, and develop strategies to enable more effective conservation of small mammals. The SMSG serves as a scientific advisory body to the IUCN, the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization. We are one of over 120 Specialist Groups, Red List Authorities and Task Forces made up of over 8000 members that form the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, all working towards a vision of “A world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity.”

Mission & Objectives

SMSG Mission:

Our mission is to serve as the “global authority on the world’s small mammals through developing a greater scientific understanding of their diversity, status and threats, and by promoting effective conservation action to secure their future”.

Knowledge

To strengthen the taxonomic and ecological knowledge-base for the small mammals and to identify their conservation status and needs through the IUCN Red List process.

Capacity

To equip scientists and conservationists with the skills, tools and knowledge they need to conduct field research on high priority small mammals, and to plan and deliver conservation actions.

Conservation

To promote field conservation actions for the most threatened and evolutionarily distinct small mammal species and in ites which support globally important assemblages of small mammals.

Awareness

To raise the profile of the small mammals in the conservation community to ensure they are appropriately represented in high-level conservation processes and strategies.

Operational effectiveness

To develop responsible governance and effective coordination of the SMSG, supported by sustainable sources of finance, and to grow the SMSG leadership and membership to ensure it is geographically, thematically and taxonomically representative.

SMSG Strategy

Problem to be solved

Small mammals are routinely overlooked in favour of larger charismatic mammals.

They have in general been under-studied 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.

SMSG Solution

We have formed a strategic partnership between SMSG, Re:wild, Durrell and Texas A&M University to scale-up conservation for the world’s small mammals.

This joint initiative, made possible by the generous support of Re:wild, 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. After careful consideration, we have devised three strategic areas of small mammal conservation on which to focus the work of our specialist group.

The Plan

We will implement three strategic programmes of work to encourage people to care, research and help to conserve small mammals:

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. Re:wild 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 for implementation of our strategy.

1. Building conservation capacity in key small mammal regions

By identifying key geographical regions in which to begin conservation efforts, we can maximize the benefits provided 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, we have reassessed more than 2,800 species. We have used results from the Red List work to locate particularly high densities of Globally Threatened and Data Deficient species, so that we can focus our efforts on these key regions.

2. Developing champions for key small mammal species

Individuals and small organisations can play a huge role in championing species conservation efforts and in developing site-level protection programmes. We used a variety of prioritisation methods to identify key species on which to focus our work. We are now working to recruit and support champions to spearhead conservation efforts for these highly threatened small mammal species. Our aim is to provide support and build the capacity needed for champion organisations or individuals to conserve these species: this could include assistance with funding and training, support for research activities, providing networking opportunities and facilitating action planning. We want to excite people about small mammals and to support our specie champion in their work and ambitions to study and conserve priority species, with the aim that they will then go on to inspire other researchers and conservationists to work on small mammals too.

3. 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 conservation efforts in the field. But, how can we get the zoo community more involved?

  • Firstly, we need to better understand why certain species are currently held in 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 to garner support for small mammals. Through these workshops we plan to develop regional initiatives, between ex-situ institutions and field conservation projects, to finance conservation within wild habitats and to increase the representation of small mammal species facing extinction across global zoo collections and captive breeding facilities.

<What will these actually aim to achieve – e.g. regional conservation initiatives spanning both in and ex-situ institutions & projects, or network of communications to develop locally/regionally-relevant small mammal conservation initiatives with input from both in and ex-situ experts/ stakeholders?>

Partners & Supporters

Currently, two UK and one US conservation organisations, as well as one US academic institution, are supporting the development and operations of the IUCN SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group.  We are grateful to the Durrell Wildllife Conservation Trust and the Zoological Society of London for supporting the work of Richard Young (Co-Chair) and Sam Turvey (Conservation Coordinator), the development of the SMSG website and for financially supporting Red List assessments.  Texas A&M University supports the work of Tom Lacher (Co-Chair) and his team, whilst Re:wild provides funding and assistance in its strategic role, helping with the design and decisions associated with these various programmes of work.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is an international charity working globally towards our mission of saving species from extinction. Committed to conserving the diversity and integrity of the life on earth, Durrell has developed a worldwide reputation for its pioneering conservation techniques
Opened in 1876 as Texas’ first public institution of higher learning, Texas A&M University is a research-intensive flagship university with more than 50,000 students studying in more than 120 undergraduate and 240 graduate degree programs in ten colleges.
Re:wild protects and restores the diversity of life on Earth through innovative collaborations among individuals, communities, Indigenous peoples, governments, scientists, and businesses to drive the most pressing nature-based solutions to our planet’s urgent crises. Radical change requires radical collaboration.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.