Unlike Indonesia's other larger islands, which have suffered high deforestation rates, Sulawesi still supports extensive tracts of both mountain and lowland moist forests that cover around 60% of the island. The small mammal fauna of Sulawesi is dominated by 49 Murid species, but with surprisingly and intriguingly low numbers of squirrel species (9 species) compared to neighbouring Borneo and Sumatra.
Among the globally threatened species, notable features include the striking Sulawesi Giant Squirrel Rubrisciurus rubriventer, Sulawesi Montane Long-nosed Squirrel Hyosciurus heinrichi and the Short-tailed Talaud Melomys Melomys caurinus. Also, three AZE trigger species occur in Sulawesi; the Critically Endangered Heavenly Hill Rat Bunomys coelestis of the Gunung Lampobatang Protection Forest and the Long-headed Hill Rat Bunomys prolatus and Watts's Spiny Rat Maxomys wattsi, both from the Morowali Nature Reserve.
The island's complex topography and relative lack of commercially valuable tree species have resulted in lower pressures for land and timber than experienced by the rest of Indonesia. However, the logging that has occurred here has locally disastrous consequences for wildlife and people, who have suffered from the effects of soil erosion and fires.
A serious barrier to developing effective long-term conservation plans is the lack of knowledge of Sulawesi’s small mammal fauna. With 22 Data Deficient species, many of which are only found in the north of the island, Sulawesi supports arguably the least known fauna of all the SMSG Key Regions.
International and national NGOs are engaging with palm oil and soy-producing businesses to try and help Sulawesi avoid the environmental and social problems arising from converting forests and peatlands into agriculture seen in Sumatra and Borneo.
A huge survey effort is also needed to survey the 22 hardly known species and find out what other small mammals are present (and probably globally threatened) on Sulawesi.
Sulawesi is one of the SMSG Key Regions, in which we plan to fill international knowledge gaps and develop a regional initiative to support and coordinate in-country research and conservation efforts to protect this unique assemblage of small mammals.
At present, the SMSG is working to organise knowledge-gathering and network-building workshops in our three highest priority Key Regions, through which we seek to forge links and recruit local members to spearhead our efforts to galvanise research and conservation focussed on each region’s small mammal species. Our work in these regions will be used to perfect our methodology for achieving similar goals in all our Key Regions. Eventually, we hope to nurture collaborative networks of local and international conservation professionals in every Key Region, which are committed to the study and protection of each region’s small mammal diversity.
While the SMSG is not currently active on Sulawesi, we plan to turn our attention to this important region as soon as possible. We will continue to monitor the state of this region’s small mammals through the international scientific literature and IUCN Red List.
If you are a professional small mammal ecologist, taxonomist or conservationist working on Sulawesi, please do Contact Us to discuss your work and how the SMSG might help.