Gymnures are relatives of hedgehogs, but lack the prickly spines (3). Found only on a single island, the Mindanao gymnure, whose local name means ‘ground pig’, has long, soft, grey fur mixed with reddish-brown hairs on the upperparts. The underparts are greyer, with a few brown hairs, and the moderately long tail is buff to purplish. It has a long snout and well developed canine teeth (2).
The little-known gymnures are believed to exhibit behaviour that is more akin to the elusive shrews than to their spiky relatives; they move faster and dig less efficiently than hedgehogs (3). Mindanao gymnures are known to feed on insects and worms, and many of them have been lured into traps baited with bird flesh (2). The well-developed anal gland of the Mindanao gymnure produces an unpleasant odour, which is likely to assist in deterring predators (3)
The fate of the Mindanao gymnure is intrinsically linked to the survival of the forests of Mindanao. The forests of the island have already been reduced to just 29 percent of what they were, after being destroyed by logging and the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture (2), and the remaining patches of forest continue to be degraded and destroyed. Legal logging operations continue in certain areas, where primary forest is being cleared and replaced with exotic trees for paper production. Illegal logging poses an even greater threat as it is widespread and unchecked, even inside protected areas (5). However, forest of the lowlands is most greatly threatened, and the gymnure may be afforded some protection from its montane habitat (6).
Mount Apo, a dormant volcano on which the Mindanao gymnure has been collected, is also home to the imposing Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and has been designated a Natural Park (7). However, as mentioned above, protected areas are not entirely immune to the widespread threat of deforestation. Further research into the status, ecology and threats of the Mindanao gymnure has been recommended by the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Eurasian Insectivores and Tree Shrews Action Plan (4).
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