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New species is at risk in Solomon Islands, scientists say

New species is at risk in Solomon Islands, scientists say”

What, were you expecting a lovely bird or something?

The skull of new species Uromys vika found on Vangunu in the Solomon Islands.

"The new species is pretty spectacular", he added. "This project really shows the importance of collaborations with local people", says Lavery, who learned about the rat through talking with Vangunu locals and confirmed with them that the new rat matched the "vika" they knew.

And now, after seven years of searching for the rat, Dr Lavery's team have finally found it.

For those already scared of rats, it is a terrifying discovery. Numerous species were discovered in the late 1800s or early 1900s, but many of these species were spotted again. The ongoing deforestation in the area was not an encouraging sign.

"I started to question if it really was a separate species, or if people were just calling regular black rats 'vika'", Lavery said. "After some exhausting attempts to find it, I was on the verge of giving up".

But extensive trappings, spotlight searches and motion-activated "camera traps" led by Lavery failed to reveal the storied rat. When you're looking for something on the ground, you're basically looking for it in 2D. "If you're looking for something that can live in 30-foot-tall trees, then there's a whole new dimension that you need to search". He called the species Uromys vika. Courtesy of Tyrone Lavery, The Field Museum.

Then in 2015, a ranger captured one of the rats as it scurried out of a felled tree.

A new rat species has just been discovered in the Solomon Islands.

The vika is the first rodent to be discovered in the Solomon Islands in the last 80 years.

From its nose to its tail, the rate measures 18 inches (46 cms.) long. He found evidence that they had eaten ngali nuts, a local nut that he said would be as hard to crack as a coconut. Part of what made the search so hard was the rat's tree-dwelling lifestyle. The islands are biologically isolated from one another, and often feature different types of habitats which force the dwellers to adapt. They are a community right next to where this species was found and they are very determined to preserve their forest against logging. "I don't think of it as scary".

Unfortunately, things aren't looking too good for the newly-found vika.

While the rat has only just been discovered, it will quickly be designated as Critically Endangered, due to its rarity and the threat posed by logging to its rainforest habitat.

"It's a remarkable new discovery of a mosaic tailed rat that found its way from either Australia or New Guinea several million years ago", Flannery said. "We're hoping that it will help attract some support for some conservation in the Vanganu area", Lavery said.

Tim Flannery, a world-leading expert in the mammalogy of the Solomon Islands, told the Guardian it is an exciting and important discovery. Credits: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"We had been working hard to find this animal", Lavery said. People on the island even had songs and children's rhymes about the rats.



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