Small mammals serve as pollinators, seed dispersers and, as prey species, also help maintain populations of reptiles, birds, small cats, small carnivores and even large carnivores. For example, marmots, squirrels and rodents (including porcupines) make up a large part of the diet of Snow Leopards, Leopards and wolves. Small mammals are also very good indicator species in climate change studies because they respond to small changes in habitat and temperature. However, the IUCN Red List classifies many small mammals in Nepal and South Asia as Data Deficient.
To address this issue and other small mammals conservation issues, we have held a number of national conferences in Nepal (in 2010, 2011 and 2012). But this year we were able to reach a much larger audience and address more small mammal conservation challenges across South Asia through the first-ever South Asian Conference on Small Mammals Conservation. The three-day conference, called “Small Mammals: Sustaining Ecology and Economy in South Asia,” took place between August 27 and 29 at Park Village Resort, Kathmandu, Nepal.
The conference was divided into four main technical sessions 1) Threats to small mammals, poaching/illegal trade, habitat destruction and disturbance, climate change; 2) How small mammals can support community livelihood; 3) Significance of small mammals in ecological function and resilience; and 4) Status and taxonomy of small mammals. Each technical session had one keynote speaker highlighting the major themes.
Altogether, participants presented 23 technical papers with four keynote speeches, three invited papers, and 10 posters. International scientists from the UK and the United States also gave three parallel workshops on conservation tools and quantitative analysis. The conference not only identified rodents and Chiroptera as small mammals, but also included papers on natural history of small mammals in South Asia, small cats, small carnivores; ecosystem services of small mammals, red panda, Chinese pangolins; illegal trade of small mammals; ecological modeling of future distribution of small mammals in the changing climatic conditions; and success in conservation through community participation, to name a few.
Conference highlights included:
- Re-discovery of Spotted Lingsang (Prionodon pardicolor) after 40 years in Nepal;
- Development of new online technology to analyze the data of morphometric measurement of Chiroptera to identify the species;
- Phylogenetic study of rodents;
- Altitudinal distribution of small mammals in China and Nepal;
- Use of dogs in scat searches of pangolin to understand feeding behavior;
- National status of Red Panda in Nepal
The conference was fruitful in meeting objectives to exchange information on the latest research and practical developments in the conservation of small mammals by expanding the network of like-minded people, updating data on small mammals, building capacity and disseminating the achievements, identifying opportunities and challenges in conservation and research activities on small mammals.
The event was organized by Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation (SMCRF) in collaboration with the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC), Government of Nepal and Central Department of Zoology and Tribhuvan University, with financial support from WWF/USAID Hariyo Ban Program-II, Zoological Society of London (ZSL)-Nepal, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), Red Panda Network, IUCN-Nepal, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and Wildlife Conservation Nepal. Total 105 participants from 10 different countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, USA, UK, China, Malaysia, South Korea and Nepal) gathered for the conference.
(Top photo by Dipendra Adhikari: Group photograph of participants of the conference)