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Micropotamogale ruwenzorii 

Scope:Global
Status_ne_offStatus_dd_offStatus_lc_onStatus_nt_offStatus_vu_offStatus_en_offStatus_cr_offStatus_ew_offStatus_ex_off

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Afrosoricida Tenrecidae

Scientific Name: Micropotamogale ruwenzorii
Species Authority: (de Witte & Frechkop, 1955)
Common Name(s):
English Rwenzori Otter Shrew, Ruwenzori Otter Shrew
French Le Micropotamogle du Mont Ruwenzori

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-02-27
Assessor(s): Stephenson, P.J.
Reviewer(s): Taylor, A.
Contributor(s): Vogel, P.
Justification:
Like all otter shrews, this species is poorly studied and little is known of its current status. It occurs in a small number of sites and is threatened by habitat loss and the siltation of rivers, as well as bycatch in fish traps. The extent of occurrence is not accurately known but based on current distribution estimates based on historic records it appears to be around 72,077 km², so the species classifies as Least Concern. However, habitat is likely declining, and with only a handful of fragmented records of the species it is likely to be more threatened than currently estimated – more field work is needed urgently to confirm its status.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2008 – Near Threatened (NT)
  • 2006 – Near Threatened (NT)
  • 1996 – Endangered (EN)
  • 1994 – Indeterminate (I)
  • 1990 – Indeterminate (I)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Relatively few specimens have been captured, mostly in fish traps. The species is endemic to central Africa, found only in the Rwenzori region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and western Uganda (Rahm 1966, Nicoll and Rathbun 1990, Bronner and Jenkins 2005), and it was recently recorded in Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda (J. Kerbis Peterhans pers. comm.). During a recent survey, local people reported seeing this species in the Ugandan side of the Ruwenzoris, but its continued presence was not confirmed (R. Kityo and A. Plumptre pers. comm.). It  persists in eastern DRC, one of the more recent records coming from Mount Kahuzi (T. Demos pers. comm.).
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Uganda
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Little quantitative information, locally not rare.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Like all otter shrews, it is an aquatic species. Vegetation and altitude appear to have little influence on distribution, as the species has been recorded in a range of habitats from montane and lowland forest, to savanna and cultivated land. Its restricted distribution suggests it is a relictual population associated with the Albertine Rift refugium (Nicoll and Rathbun 1990).
Found in streams and small rivers of varying size in the rainforest zone from 800 to 900 m (n=4) and in montane forest up to 2,200 m (n=4) (Rahm 1960). Also recorded in streams in gallery forest surrounded by secondary savanna (elephant grass) from 1,000 to 1,200 m. It digs tunnels and constructs hay or grass sleeping chambers within them. Micropotamogale spp. have been recorded eating insects, insect larvae, worms, crabs, fish and small frogs.

Within the Potamogalinae, the webbed feet of M. ruwenzorii reveal a peculiar strong adaptation for aquatic life: even the forefeet are proportionally very big, the thumb and little finger elongated (Verheyen 1961). Similar morphological adaptations are found in only a few other insectivorous small mammals such as Limnogale mergulus (Tenrecidae), Nectogale elegans (Soricidae) and Galemys pyrenaica (Talpidae) which are always separated from species without webbed feet on generic level. Swimming is done according to the paddling mode including pectoral and pelvic stroke (as in polar bear) in cross gate. Only when diving the feet may be used synchronously (Rahm 1961) as observed in the Pyrenean Desman (Niethammer 1970). The tail seems not to be use for propulsion. There are several periods of activity each night, grooming occurs after each activity period (Rahm 1961).

Foraging occurs in water. The preferred prey are crabs, aquatic insects, oligochaete worms and fish (Clarias, etc.). An otter shrew weighing 135 g eats an equivalent of 80 g of food per night. Manipulation of food is performed only with the mouth, not with the forefeet. Faecal pellets (ca. 2-5 em long, diameter 0.9 em) contain fragments of chitin from the crab and insect prey (Rahm 1961).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat to this species is loss of habitat in its restricted range. It is also  susceptible to getting caught in fish traps. The melting of the glaciers on the Rwenzoris as a result of climate change is not thought to change much of the water flow off the mountain since most of it is rainfall (A. Plumptre pers. comm.), so this is not seen as a threat to the species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Present in Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks in eastern DRC. Both of these World Heritage Sites are considered by UNESCO to be in danger due to political instability and regular human encroachment (UNESCO 2015a,b). It is also present in Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda. Further research on the species’ distribution, abundance, habitat needs and threats will help determine its status and appropriate conservation measures to protect it.

Citation: Stephenson, P.J. 2016. Micropotamogale ruwenzorii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13394A21287768. . Downloaded on 26 July 2016.
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