Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Lost for over a century the Red-crested Tree Rat is rediscovered in Colombia

2 June, 2011 - 12:18 -- World Land Trust

Thought to be extinct, this rare rodent hit the headlines when after 113 years it was rediscovered in a wildlife reserve established by ProAves, a World Land Trust partner organisation

Red-crested Tree Rat

Red-crested tree rat rediscovered after more than 100 years. Photo Lizzie Noble/ProAves

The Red-crested Tree Rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis) had not been recorded since 1898, until it was spied on 4 May at the El Dorado Nature Reserve in northern Colombia, owned and protected by World Land Trust (WLT) partner ProAves. Volunteers at the reserve, who are researching endangered amphibians, stumbled across this animal when it showed up at their EcoLodge in the evening. This pretty red-furred rodent, described as being the size of a guinea pig, is from a unique genus and could only be identified by two specimens collected in 1880. Unaware of the importance of their discovery, the volunteers took photographs of  it and later showed them to Paul Salaman, Director of Conservation at WLT-US, who identified the “extinct” species. The species is almost certain to be rare and researchers predict that it will be listed by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. It is therefore great news that this species has been rediscovered on a reserve area that protects 2,000 acres (809 hectares).

El Dorado Reserve

Just two hours away from the popular tourist city of Santa Marta, the El Dorado Nature Reserve boasts spectacular views of the towering glacier-covered peaks of Sierra Nevada and the contrasting sands of Caribbean beaches. Named after the legendary city of gold, El Dorado is ProAves’ flagship reserve and hosts the highest concentration of continental range-restricted bird species found anywhere in the world. Its habitat is primary subtropical and montane forest of the Sierra Nevada and the reserve holds one of the highest concentrations of endemic and threatened amphibian species, with much of the flora and fauna above the EcoLodge being endemic. Yet, the Sierra Nevada region and its species remain relatively unknown, with at least two new bird species discovered in 2007. This included a species of screech owl that roosts beside the reserve’s EcoLodge – the very same place that the Red-crested Tree Rat was rediscovered.

Find out more about World Land Trust and ProAves projects in Colombia 


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

I was wondering how long this would take to get onto the British website…it’s been on the US one for some time now. Which goes to show it’s always worth a quick schufty over to see what they, the Yanks, have got cooking.

I first heard this rather charming piece of good news on Radio 5 Live (BBC) as a tail-end (pun intended) sign-off ‘chuckle item’ to a doom-laden news package. There were actual interviews altho’ typically they got the name wrong, calling you the “Wild land Trust”. No matter, around the world the news-item went, raising chuckles.

Spookily, this is also the territory of the Kogi People who were so powerfully portrayed in Alan Ereira’s book and TV documentary “The Heart of the World” back in 1990 odd. The Kogi were then delivering a cogent warning to the rest of the world about the dire nature of the unfolding environemntal crisis. They also wanted their land back. They got some of it, see their Tairona Heritage Trust website.

So you have to wonder – is this a good thing, the mysterious return of the Tree Rat (more like guinea pig) – or a rather more omninous portent?

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