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Chrysospalax villosus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA AFROSORICIDA CHRYSOCHLORIDAE

Scientific Name: Chrysospalax villosus
Species Authority: (A. Smith, 1833)
Common Name(s):
English Rough-haired Golden Mole
Taxonomic Notes: Meester (1974) listed six subspecies distinguished mainly by subtle differences in pelage colour: villosus, transvaalensis, leschae, dobsoni, rufopallidus and rufus. The validity of these subspecies is uncertain (Bronner and Jenkins 2005, Bronner 2013).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable B2ab(ii,iii,iv) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-01-27
Assessor(s): Bronner, G.
Reviewer(s): Asher, R.J. & Taylor, A.
Justification:
While the extent of occurrence of this species appears large (> 20,000 km2), it has very specific habitat requirements and has been recorded from only 11 locations. Based on recent field surveys it no longer occurs at three of these, as its preferred natural grassland habitats have vanished under urban sprawl (especially in Gauteng around Pretoria, and KwaZulu-Natal around Pietermaritzburg). Known locations are scattered far apart suggesting possible fragmentation into numerous subpopulations with little gene flow. Even at sites where this species occurs it is uncommon, suggesting that population densities are low. Its total area of occupancy is estimated at 128 km2. Many of the sites at which this species was collected historically have been transformed by agricultural practices and other anthropogenic activities. The widespread practice of ranchers allowing livestock to graze in wetlands and grasslands near waterbodies during the dry winter months leads to trampling of vegetation and a loss of cover, which undoubtedly impacts this species negatively as these are its preferred habitats and it is known to spend at least some time foraging above ground. Likewise, overgrazing and the frequent (often annual) burning of pasturelands in areas where this species occurs surely reduce resources (cover and invertebrates) that local populations rely on (Bronner 2013). In Mpumalanga the Highveld grasslands favoured by this species have been severely impacted by open-cast coal mining to fuel the South African power station hub; this, together with associated industrial activities, rapid spread of local towns, and increasing human population pressures are likely threats at many locations. Other threats include the widespread use of pesticides during agro-industrial farming and the loss of habitat to agro-industrial plantations (diminishing but historically acute).

This reassessment of the species confirms its Vulnerable status, with a minor adjustment: in 2008 assessment it was considered subcriterion (B2a) of severe fragmentation, however, a re-examination of the available information concludes that levels of fragmentation are uncertain. Therefore the species is Vulnerable due to its small area of occupancy, six locations where its presence is still certain, probable decline in number of locations and area/extent/quality of suitable habitat, and the persistent, varied threats to the population across its entire range. Should the number of known locations decline further or if evidence arises of severe fragmentation, it will clearly qualify for Endangered status.
History:
2008 Vulnerable
2006 Vulnerable
1996 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species has a disjunct distribution in South Africa, being recorded only from scattered localities in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces.
Countries:
Native:
South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Extremely rare and secretive; only three specimens have been collected since 1980. Difficult to detect owing to preference for areas with sandy soils and dense vegetation cover.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Found on sandy soils in grasslands, meadows and along edges of marshes in Savanna and Grassland biomes of South Africa. Recorded from gardens and parklands, also found in dense stands of kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) and marginally on golf courses adjoining natural grasslands.

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

The major threats are habitat alteration as a result of mining and power generation, ecologically poor agricultural practices and urbanization, and habitat degradation associated with mining for shallow coal deposits to fuel numerous power stations that occur in the high-altitude grassland habitats in the northern parts of this species' range. Rehabilitation attempts at these sites have proved largely ineffective. These power stations form the backbone of South Africa's electricity network, and disturbance is likely to increase as human populations grow and the demand for power increases. The widespread practice of allowing cattle to graze in marshes and dense grasslands near water during dry winter months leads to trampling and a loss of cover, and this undoubtedly impacts severely on this species; likewise, ranchers often burn such areas to provide fresh graze at the end of the dry winter, which must adversely affect through predation and resource loss given the tendency of this species to forage above-ground under dense vegetative cover. Some areas in which they formerly occurred (e.g., Tshwane (Pretoria) West) have been completely transformed by urbanization and industrialization. Currently, there are only a handful of sites (three in KZN Midlands, three in Mpumalanga) where there are conclusive signs of their presence, but given its cryptic nature and lack of sustained surveying effort, this species may prove to be more resilient and widespread than current data indicate.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

Possibly occurs in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and Verloren-Vallei Nature Reserve (Mpumalanga), and Mgeni Vlei Nature Reserve (KwaZulu-Natal). Research is needed to assess status of populations, and the threats they face, at all known localities.


Citation: Bronner, G. 2015. Chrysospalax villosus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 05 August 2015.
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