From high altitude swamp forest to dipterocarp forests, the forests of Borneo support a truly remarkable biodiversity. Most famously home to charismatic large mammals such as Sumatran rhinoceros and tiger, the small mammal fauna is equally impressive. Nowhere else on earth can you find such a concentration of globally threatened small mammals; some areas within this region support 15 globally threatened species. Furthermore, northern Borneo has disproportionately the highest density of Data Deficient small mammal species in the world, for which we know almost nothing about, but predict that many are likely to be endangered. Across the whole SMSG Key Region there are nine DD species, second only to Sulawesi. Surveys are desperately needed to map the distributions of these species and to quantify population change in order to assess them for extinction risk. Meanwhile, new small mammal species are regularly being described from across Borneo, with more likely to be discovered.
Some distinctive features of the Borneo forests’ small mammal fauna include the highest number of squirrels (33 species), tree-shrews (10 species) and old world porcupines (3 species) of any of the SMSG’s Key Regions. Notable examples of globally threatened species from this fauna are two Murids – the Rajah Spiny Rat and Whitehead's Spiny Rat – and three flying squirrels from the Petinomys genus - Whiskered Flying Squirrel, Temminck's Flying Squirrel and Vordermann's Flying Squirrel. There are no AZE trigger small mammals within this Key Region.
- Loss of forest through industrial-scale logging, palm oil plantations and subsistence agriculture is the number one threat to these forests and its small mammals.
- Borneo’s protected area network fails to encompass the ranges of its smaller mammalian species.
- The lack of up-to-date information on the majority of these species makes the task of devising an effective strategy to conserve Bornean small mammal diversity very difficult.
Borneo’s forests are among the highest conservation priorities in the world with multiple national and international NGOs working to try and save them for the benefit of both wildlife and people. This work ranges from direct protection of forests and wildlife, lobbying governments and other institutions, to working with global business to improve the sustainability of the palm oil industry. The protected area network in northern Borneo flags as being poor for its coverage of threatened small mammal distributions. It is vital that the needs of many tens of globally threatened small mammals are taken into account in large-scale forest conservation initiatives in this region.
As one of the SMSG’s highest global priority regions, we plan to establish and develop a small mammal conservation initiative. We are currently planning and fund-raising for stage one:
- a multi-stakeholder workshop to develop a Bornean conservation strategy, to collate local data and knowledge to provide accurate status assessments, and to forge a network of local partners committed to rolling out region-wide small mammal conservation.
Significant workshop outcomes will be:
- the updating of Red List assessments,
- knowledge of which species are in most urgent need of conservation,
- agreement on what are the first steps in their conservation,
- determination of the individuals and organisations able to undertake the work.
Crucially, we will also determine what support, skills, and capacity these local conservation partners will require from the SMSG to begin and sustain these activities.