Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Vangunu Giant Rat: Elusive Ambassador for Conservation of Solomon Islands’ Forests


Illustration by Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum
Though new species are regularly discovered around the world, the discovery of a mammal species that is new to science doesn’t happen very often.
Consequently, when the discovery of a previously undescribed giant rat species from Vangunu in the Solomon Islands village Zaira was announced this week, it received worldwide attention, especially because the last time a new mammal species was confirmed in the Solomon Islands was more than 80 years ago. 
National Geographic, The Guardian, Scientific American, Nature, CNN, Newsweek and Smithsonian Magazine all reported on the Vangunu giant rat (Uromys vika), which Tyrone Lavery and Hikuna Judge described in the latest issue of Journal of Mammalogy. (Earlier this year, we wrote about Lavery’s CEPF-funded efforts to find the giant rats on the Solomon Islands, which helped lead to his eventual success.)
The unfortunate irony of the find is that the rat was discovered, and died, after dropping from a felled tree. Logging and loss of habitat are among the reasons for the decline of giant rat species on the Solomon Islands. If the practice continues unchecked, extinction of these species—including the Vangunu giant rat—is likely. 
© Oke Revoh
Logging is not only harmful for the islands’ biodiversity: It depletes the essential resources and ecosystem services on which local people depend for their livelihoods.
Several CEPF grants in the Solomon Islands are dedicated to helping communities to conserve their biodiversity and sustainably manage their forests for their own long-term welfare rather than surrendering them to loggers.  
CEPF is proud to have played a part in this incredible discovery, but much work remains to be done to protect the forest on which the Vangunu giant rat and local people depend.