Micropotamogale lamottei 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Afrosoricida Tenrecidae

Scientific Name: Micropotamogale lamottei Heim de Balsac, 1954
Common Name(s):
English Nimba Otter Shrew, Pygmy Otter-shrew
French Le Micropotamogale du Mont Nimba

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-02-27
Assessor(s): Stephenson, P.J.
Reviewer(s): Taylor, A.
Contributor(s): Vogel, P.
Like all otter shrews, this species is poorly studied and little is known of its current status. It appears to be confined to a severely fragmented area of forest, where the extent and quality of the habitat are observed to be declining. Whilst the species distribution is unclear, the estimated extent of occurrence is 22,540 km², suggesting it qualifies as Near Threatened (nearly qualifies for a threatened listing under criterion B1ab(iii)). This is a larger extent of occurrence than previously estimated so the assessment suggests it is less threatened than originally thought (Endangered in 2008), though further field work is essential to confirm this.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Endemic to a small region of West Africa: the Nimba mountains of Liberia, Guinea (Kuhn 1964) and Côte d'Ivoire (Vogel 1983), and the mountains of the Putu Range, Liberia (Kuhn 1971). This is a very restricted area, with the most distant recorded localities only 380 km apart, almost all known specimens have been captured in an area covering less than 1,500 km². The mountains in the species range have been severely impacted by large-scale mining operations. Current distribution is unclear though the presence of the species in the Nimba range was confirmed by local researchers as recently as 2014 (M. Rödel pers. comm.) and in the Putu range in late 2010 (C. Denys pers. comm.), though its extent of occurrence is almost certainly less than originally estimated. No information is available on its possible third location – a site in Guinea, north-west of Nimba.
Countries occurrence:
Côte d'Ivoire; Guinea; Liberia
Additional data:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):Yes
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Generally uncommon, with local density usually low, very rare where hills not present. In the Nimba region, a census of drowned animals from fish bow nets resulted in about one otter-shrew per 10 km² per year. In 1970, otter-shrews were frequently found close to villages, by 1990, they were rarely found within 3–5 km of villages (P. Vogel pers. obs.).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is a nocturnal,  semi-aquatic species inhabiting very small creeks, larger streams and small swamps in primary and secondary rain forest in hilly country (Vogel 1983). Also occurs in regions where primary and secondary forest has been replaced by cocoa and coffee plantations, provided dense vegetation remains along streams. May occur in rice cultures (Kuhn 1964).

Efficient swimmer and diver, even though its tail and feet are not adapted for aquatic life (Guth et al. 1959). Nimba otter shrews can remain underwater for over 10 minutes (when escaping from danger) by lowering their metabolic rate. The strong sensitive vibrissase are used for locating underwater prey. The less specialised feet and tail probably allow exploitation of a broader ecological niche compared with other species of otter shrews. Foraging occurs along river banks and  in open water. The diet is mainly crabs and catfish, with a few insects (Kuhn 1964) and tadpoles, small mammals are not consumed (Vogel 1983). Otter shrews carry captured crabs onto the land before eating them, the crab is then attacked from behind, minimising the chances of being bitten by the pincers, and the skeleton is crushed at the junction of the cephalothorax and abdomen (Vogel 1983). In captivity, the daily consumption was about 40 g of fish.

Evidence from the rare captures, and from predatory behaviour, suggests that the Nimba otter shrew is rather solitary and territorial. However, a pair kept over several months in the same enclosure did not exhibit aggressive behaviour (Vogel 1983).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species’ habitat is severely threatened by mining and agricultural developments. Mining activities have devastated the Liberian sector of Mount Nimba and habitat conservation is generally ineffective (Nicoll and Rathbun 1990). The Nimba mountains in Guinea and Liberia remain under severe threat from iron ore mining, as does the neighbouring Putu Range (another Micropotamogale stronghold) (J. Fahr pers. comm.). Wetland rice agriculture introduced in 1980 to the Nimba region also resulted in large-scale habitat conversion to rice paddies  (P. Vogel unpubl.). As human density increases, the increased use of fish traps and nets also posea serious threat.

Several biologists report frustration at the lack of apparent interest in Mount Nimba and its threatened endemic wildlife from any of the large conservation NGOs.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is present in the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site covering  17,540 ha - of which 12,540 ha is in Guinea and 5,000 ha is in Côte d’Ivoire. In the Guinean part, a mining enclave is directly adjacent and may affect the integrity of the reserve (UNESCO 2015). Encroachment into the reserve by the local population results in regular fires and poaching which need to be controlled by the authorities. Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve is therefore considered by UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site in danger (UNESCO 2015), so the future of the Nimba otter shrew cannot be considered to be assured.

The full extent of the impact of mining and bycatch (in fish traps and nets) on the species is not known and requires investigation. Further research on the species’ distribution, status, habitat needs and threats will help determine appropriate  conservation measures.

Citation: Stephenson, P.J. 2016. Micropotamogale lamottei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13393A21287657. . Downloaded on 20 September 2018.
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