Conservation Biology

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

CONSERVATION OF VAN ZYL’S GOLDEN MOLE

Van Zyl’s golden moles (Cryptochloris zyli) are ancient mammals which live under the ground. They have shiny dense fur coat which protect them against cold. Their ears and eyes are not visible, in fact they are blind. Their eyes are covered with hairy skins and their ears are small and are hidden in the animal’s fur [1].

A picture of Van Zyl’s golden mole [5]

The Van Zyl’s golden mole lives in the coastal dure belt. It weighs about 20-30 grams and it is also 80-90 millimetres long. The Van Zyl’s golden mole eats various invertebrates such as legless lizards, which can grow to a length of about 200 millimetres. The offsprings of Van Zyl’s golden mole are born in a grass-lined cavity in the ground. The adult golden moles usually dig tunnels under the ground for shelter [1].

The golden moles are known to be native to Compagnies Drift, which is 16 kilometres inland from Lambert’s bay, north-western Cape Province, South Africa. The Van Zyl’s golden moles are threatened by the continued loss of diversity. What is causing the loss of biodiversity or habitat of the Van Zyl’s golden mole? One of the causes is the mining of coastal dunes for the alluvial diamond could lead to the loss of Van Zyl’s golden mole habitat. The destruction of habitat is associated with tourism development along the west coast. There are about 21 species of Van Zyl’s golden mole which are known. In South Africa there are 18 species which are already known. A. carriae is a Van Zyl’s golden mole which is found at fynbos and it is called the fynbos golden mole. The cape golden mole (C. asiatica) is found at Stellenbosch. Both the fynbos and cape mole live under the soil but they prefer different soil types. At Wakkerstroom the golden mole (Amblysomus septentrionalis) is found only in grass land [2].

When the Van Zyl’s golden mole is awake it is always busy digging or on the move so that it can maintain its body temperature normal. If the Van Zyl’s golden mole stay for too long without doing anything, its temperature will drop dramatically. What happens to the Van Zyl’s golden mole when they are sleeping or they don’t sleep at all since their temperature drops drastically? Luckily the Van Zyl’s golden mole have a muscles twitch when they are sleeping which protect them from dying of cold. The muscle twitch produces energy while they are sleeping to help maintain their body temperature [1].

According the IUCN the Van Zyl’s golden mole is an endangered. When they did there study in 1994 they found that the status of Van Zyl’s golden mole was indeterminate, which means they were lot of them. When the same study was repeated in 1996-2004 they found that that the Van Zyl’s golden mole was critically endangered, which means they have declined dramatically in their number. In 2006 they found that they were still endangered. The Van Zyl’s golden mole is currently found in South Africa [3].

Why the Van Zyl’s golden mole needs to be conserved? According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species includes 10 species of golden mole species which are endangered and most of them are facing extinction [4]. All the 10 species are found in South Africa. The Van Zyl’s golden mole are declining in number or facing extinction because of the increase in the habitat degradation which is caused by human activities. Human destroy the habitat of Van Zyl’s golden moles mostly by mining, urbanisation, agriculture and the poor management of indigenous forests.

References:

[1]. Massicot, P. Animal Info - Van Zyl's Golden Mole. [Internet] Last modified: 2006 Jun 4. [cited 2007 Mar 25]. Available from: http://www.animalinfo.org/species/crypzyli.htm

[2]. Bronner, G. Golden moles. [Internet]. [cited 2007 Mar 25]. Available from: http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/afrotheria/golden_moles/

[3]. Massicot, P. Animal Info - Notes on the IUCN Red List Categories. [Internet]. Last modified: 2004 Jul 28. [Cited 2007 Mar 25]. Available from: http://www.animalinfo.org/notes.htm#IUCNcat

[4]. Bronner, G. 2006. Cryptochloris zyli. In: IUCN 2006. (Afrotheria Specialist Group). 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Image credits:

[5].Van Zyl’s golden mole http://www.calacademy.org/research/bmammals/afrotheria/golden_moles/photos/Cryptochloris_zyli.jpg
Lethabo Mosomane
CSIR
Pretoria
0001
Tel: 27 12 841 2133
Fax: 27 12 842 3676

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