First known footage of extraordinary desert creature
Friday 7 December 2007
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s has today released the first known footage of the long-eared jerboa in the wild, an extraordinary mammal found in the deserts of Mongolia and China. The tiny creature looks like a mouse-sized kangaroo with enormous ears. This endangered animal was filmed during a recent ZSL expedition to the Mongolian Gobi desert to track down and assess the species.
The long-eared jerboa is a small rodent that can be easily distinguished by its giant ears, which are about one third bigger than its head, and its legs, which are specially adapted for jumping like a kangaroo. Currently, the species is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with habitat disturbance the species’ key threat. ZSL were privileged to film individual jerboas in their natural environment and study their behaviour. The species is one of those highlighted by ZSL’s EDGE programme, which focuses its efforts on species that are Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered.
Dr Jonathan Baillie, ZSL Head of Field Conservation and leader of the expedition, commented, “The footage and images from this expedition really are extraordinary, and incredibly charming. The long-eared jerboa is a bit like the Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure. When people see ZSL’s footage of this tiny threatened creature I am convinced they will want to get involved in its conservation. Unfortunately, it is just one of many amazing and unusual animals that are highly threatened but receiving little or no conservation attention’’.
ZSL has recently appointed an in-country scientist (known as an EDGE fellow) who is studying the species’ distribution, behaviour and ecology. The EDGE fellow is also investigating the threats facing the species and has already identified the emergence of the domestic cat as a newly introduced predator to their range as a significant danger. The results of this research are being used to formulate an Action Plan to effectively conserve the species. You can follow the EDGE fellow’s progress on the EDGE website
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Notes to editors
- Broadcast quality DV tapes and short clips suitable for website use available
- Dr Jonathan Baillie available for interview
- High resolution photographs also available
- Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 30 countries worldwide.
- EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) animals are those with few close relatives and are highly distinct genetically. These animals are also extremely endangered and in need of immediate action to save them from becoming extinct. By mathematically combining a measure of each species’ unique evolutionary history with its threat of extinction, the scientists are able to give species an EDGE value and rank them accordingly.
- In January 2007, the EDGE team assessed all mammal species and released the list of the top 100 EDGE mammal species. From the top 100, the team chose ten key species that were receiving little or no conservation attention to focus on in the first year of the programme, one of which was the long-eared jerboa.
- Further information about the EDGE programme can be found at www.zsl.org/edge. More images and footage of the jerboa can also be found on the website.
- The long-eared jerboa (Euchoreutes naso) is a terrestrial jumping rodent found in southern parts of Mongolia and north-central areas of China. The species is primarily nocturnal, spending the daylight hours in underground tunnels, and insectivorous. The main threat to the species is thought to be human disturbance of its habitat, but very little is currently known about the species.
Contact Alice Henchley
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