Lost to Science for Over 70 Years, the Mindanao Treeshrew is Rediscovered
No one has seen a Mindanao treeshrew in living memory—until two Filipino biologists rediscovered the elusive creature, hidden in a nest in the jungles of Dinagat Island in Mindanao.
“The nest entrance was covered by a pile of debris including leaf litter, twigs, and roots but there was a small opening that serves as the entry and exit point to the nest chamber,” wrote the Filipino biologists Tristan Senarillos and Jayson Ibañez in their study. It was a very rare find.
The Mindanao treeshrew (Tupaia everetti) was first described in 1892. It is an endemic mammal species found in the Mindanao Faunal Region in the Philippines. Although the species is not listed as threatened, its elusiveness has hindered scientists for the last 70 years from observing and studying the animal. Ecologist Charles H. Wharton last published a study on the Mindanao treeshrew in 1950.
“Locating nesting sites of cryptic and little-known small mammals in the Philippines remains a challenge up to this day, and for most species, their nest and nest characteristics remain largely unknown,” the authors explained.
“This nest discovery represents a valuable contribution to the literature on this poorly studied endemic and elusive species ecology, which may be increasingly threatened by anthropogenic (human) activities.”
The nest was built inside a cavity at the base of a dead pandan tree. The nest entrance was covered by a pile of debris including leaf litter, twigs, and roots, and there was a small opening that serves as the entry and exit point to the nest chamber.
Juvenile Mindanao Treeshrew in Their Nest
According to the authors, mining is the leading threat to biodiversity loss in Dinagat Islands because the entire island province was declared a mineral reserve under the Presidential Proclamation No. 391 of 1939. That law legalized the quarrying of large forested areas on the island. “There are 19 mining companies currently operating in Dinagat Islands, extracting silver, nickel, copper, chromite, limestone, and silica,” the authors wrote.
The Jungle Where the Nest Was Found
“Fortunately, the forest of Barangay General Aguinaldo is well-protected since it is declared a community watershed. The Mindanao treeshrew population’s long-term reproduction benefited greatly from this level of nesting site protection,” they added.
Thankfully, the Mindanao treeshrew remains a species of least concern. It's just very elusive and very little is known about them.
"Its widespread distribution does not warrant its conservation and protection due to deforestation and hunting pressures," the authors noted.