Why Sri Lanka?
The upland and lowland rainforests of southwestern Sri Lanka are notable for their exceptionally high rates of endemism, i.e. the proportion of species found nowhere else on earth. In terms of small mammals, Sri Lanka supports a very high number of globally threatened eulipotyphlan insectivores (7 species). Pearson’s Long-clawed Shrew (Solisorex pearsoni, EN) and Kelaart's Long-clawed Shrew (Feroculus feroculus, EN) are the sole representatives of two eulipotyphlan genera found only in Sri Lanka, along with a third endemic monotypic genus represented by the Ohiya Rat (Srilankamys ohiensis). Other small mammal species that are either endemic or ‘near-endemic’ to this region are the Asian Highland Shrew, Sri Lankan Long-tailed Shrew, Nillu Rat, Ceylon Spiny Mouse, Layard's Palm Squirrel, Dusky Palm Squirrel, Travancore Flying Squirrel and the Nolthenius's Long-tailed Climbing Mouse.
Threats to this small mammal fauna come primarily from habitat loss and degradation. The majority of Sri Lanka’s rainforests have been lost to rice paddies, housing, and plantations of tea, rubber, and coconut. Remaining fragments are still being cleared for agriculture.
Sri Lanka only has one Data Deficient species, but knowledge of all Sri Lanka’s small mammal fauna is extremely limited.
Half of the remaining southern lowland forests are protected in the Sinharaja Natural Heritage Wilderness Area. In the montane forests, five protected areas exist but none have good protection measures nor conservation plans in place.
In order to develop an effective small mammal conservation action plan for the region, detailed surveys of globally threatened species are needed to map their fine scale distributions.
Sri Lanka 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 in Sri Lanka, 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 Sri Lanka, please do Contact Us to discuss your work and how the SMSG might help.