Saving the venom: conservation efforts to protect the Hispaniolan Solenodon


The Hispaniolan solenodon is a shrew-like mammal that has been around since the age of the dinosaurs. They live in moist forest areas, but are found only on the island of Hispaniola in the Dominican Republic and also in parts of southern Haiti.

Living fruitfully on Hispaniola for many years, they are found inside and outside of protected national parks. However, when Europeans introduced rats, feral cats, dogs, and mongoose to the area, their population started to decrease significantly. The solenodons are clumsy and slow runners, making them easy prey. Their habitat has also been destroyed over the years which has led to them becoming endangered.

They are nocturnal mammals, often staying in trees, logs, caves, or burrows during the day to remain hidden from predators. With a varied diet, they eat arthropods, worms, snails, mice, small reptiles, fruit, grains, and leaves. Not only do they have a clumsy walk, but they also have a long snout as well. They like to eat just about anything that their snout can sniff out.

Fun Facts About The Solenodons

Solenodons are one of the most unique mammals out there. Many consider this evolutionary wonder a “living fossil” as they are such an old species. However, perhaps even more incredibly they are one of the few venomous mammals in the world. Amazingly, they produce venomous saliva, which can help harm its predators. This is likely one of the only reasons that they can fend off some rarther large predators. Through the wonder of convergent evolution, this remarkable animal injects venom like a snake does, between their specially modified teeth. Some of their teeth have special grooves where venom flows through. The solenodons actually got their name from the Greeks. The word means “grooved tooth”.

They make some funny noises as well. It has been said that they make pig-like grunts when they are being threatened. They also make bird-like cries too. They sound like confused little creatures! The strangest part? People say that they smell like goats! They have glands in their armpits and groin areas that secrete this smell.

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Conservation Efforts

In 2007, the EDGE Species project placed the Hispaniolan solenodon as one of the top ten “focal species”. The Darwin Initiative in the UK funded another conservation project to help protect the Hispanolian solenodon in 2009. Also in 2010, the Darwin Initiative funded a research and education program about solenodons. Although there is legal protection for the species, it still faces an uncertain future. The EDGE program, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, BirdLife International, the Sociedad Ornitologica de la Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic National Zoo, Societe Audubon Haiti, and in-country project partners are all helping with the conservation efforts.

Even though they are protected by law, this doesn’t stop the national parks that they live in from being threatened. Deforestation, farming and charcoal productions are the biggest threats, even inside the national parks in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Various organisations are putting plans in place to help with these efforts, but as long as the solenodon’s natural habitat is degrading, the solenodons will naturally suffer as well.

Recent decades aren’t the first time this species was considered endangered. They were considered almost extinct until 1907 when many were found on the island of Hispaniola.

Currently, the population of solenodons are unknown. We do know that their current conservation attention is low, which makes it increasingly important to spread the word about this creature and take steps to preserve them. If we do not, they could go extinct.

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Author Bio:
Nicole is a freelance writer and educator based in Michigan and believes that her writing is an extension of her career as a tutor. She covers many topics like travel, mental health and education. She is a primary contributor on Chapters Capistrano’s website where she covers topics like addiction recovery, holistic treatments and overall health education. When she isn’t writing, you might find Nicole running, hiking, and swimming. She has participated in several 10K races and hopes to compete in a marathon one day.