Volunteers at the El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada were overjoyed to receive an evening visit from the red-crested tree rat. The last recorded sighting was in 1898, when two of the critters were found and studied, and were the subsequent source of all information about the rat, until now.
Spotted by two volunteers working at the reserve, the rat’s reappearance has been credited to the work being done by Fundacion ProAves, a conservation organization founded in 1998 to save endangered species in Columbia. The charity buys forested properties that are on the brink of being destroyed, despite being known to be important for endangered wildlife, and monitors a number of rare species. It’s pretty handy, therefore, that the red-crested tree rat chose this reserve, founded in 2005, to say hello.
Despite its miraculous appearance, the rat, also known as the red-crested soft-furred spiny-rat, seemed fairly relaxed about making history. Lizzie Noble, a volunteer from Britain, had been at the reserve for just a month when she witnessed the creature: “He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement he was causing. We are absolutely delighted to have rediscovered such a wonderful creature…. Clearly the El Dorado Reserve has many more exciting discoveries waiting,” she said in a ProAves press release.
The red-crested tree rat is likely eligible for listing as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List of Threatened Species” criteria.
While it’s a shame he didn’t bring a few buddies with him, it’s still undoubtedly a step up from existing solely as a species “that was only talked about in science journals”, as George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, puts it.