Why South Western Ghats?
Running down the South Western Ghats mountain range in southern India are a series of highland rainforests, moist deciduous forests and ‘shola-grassland complexes’ which contain a large proportion of India’s animal and plant species. Whilst its small mammal fauna doesn’t rival the African, Mexican and SE Asian Key Regions in terms of overall species richness, it supports an important number of endemic murids, squirrels and shrews. This includes the Vulnerable Malabar Spiny Dormouse Platacanthomys lasiurus, which is a monotypic genus and the sole representative of the Platacanthomyidae family within the SMSG’s Key Regions (only one other species in this family is extant today, the Chinese Pygmy Dormouse Typhlomys cinereus). There are 7 other globally threatened species in this Key Region, examples of which include Kelaart's Long-clawed Shrew, Dusky-striped Squirrel, Servant Mouse, Day's Shrew and Nilgiri Long-tailed Tree Mouse.
Our knowledge of this small mammal fauna is limited, and more fieldwork is needed to understand the ecology of these species. Just one Data Deficient species occurs in this Key Region.
- The huge human population and its need for space and natural resources has led to increasing and multiple threats to the South Western Ghats wild habitats.
- Logging, agriculture, hydroelectric projects, livestock grazing, mining, road construction, and tourism and urban expansion are exerting great pressure on the forests.
- The Nilgiri and Cardamom hills, so rich in endemic plant and animals species, are especially affected by the tea, coffee, and rubber plantations.
Nearly two-thirds of the montane rainforests in this region have already been cleared and what remains is fragmented, except for one large intact habitat block in the southern area of the region. About 3,200 km2 of the montane rainforests is already included within sixteen protected areas. Of these the Periyar, Anamalai, and Kalakkad-Mundanthurai are three important reserves.
The South Western Ghats form one of the SMSG Key Regions, in which we plan to fill knowledge gaps and develop a regional initiative that will support and coordinate local research and conservation efforts to protect this unique assemblage of small mammals.
At present, the SMSG is working to organise knowledge-gathering and collaborative 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 in the South Western Ghats, 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 in the South Western Ghats, please do Contact Us to discuss your work and how the SMSG might help.