The journal of the IUCN Small Carnivore Specialist Group (SCSG)
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The first issue of Mustelid and Viverrid Conservation rolled off the press in Belgium in August 1989. These 16 pages marked a landmark moment and an early triumph of the IUCN/SSC action planning process. Perhaps surprisingly, given their generally low public profile compared with many other faunal groups, one of the earliest IUCN/SSC action plans, in 1989, covered the Mustelidae (excluding the otters) and Viverridae. These families then included the animals now generally separated out into Nandiniidae, Prionodontidae, Herpestidae, Eupleridae, and Mephitidae, and so between them held the bulk of the ‘small carnivores’. The process of preparing this action plan exposed the paucity of communication between people with information relevant to conserving small carnivores, over and above the general dearth of such information: a situation unlikely to change if left to itself.
Clearly, this genuine impediment for conservation could be addressed by a publication devoted to the animals, a good idea which was, however, like many good ideas in conservation, reliant for its realisation upon ‘someone’. That ‘someone’ was Harry Van Rompaey, who conceptualised the publication’s scope and format. Until his tragically early death in 2007, he produced two issues per year (as a combined double-issue in 2006, a sign of the very sad times), with only the most occasional and minor of delays. This necessitated dogged activity on many fronts: raising awareness of the publication’s existence; urging those with important unpublished information to write it up; polishing manuscripts from many different sectors of humanity; overseeing and, frankly, enthusing, an editorial team; managing the subscriptions and circulations lists; and, almost single-handedly, raising grant money to support printing and distribution costs. Indeed, not infrequently, in the early years, his own money plugged the gaps. The demands of these diverse tasks brutally hit us in 2007: we required four extra people to cover his activities!
Over its 41 issues (as of December 2009), the periodical has changed greatly. Issue 6, in April 1992, was the first to be entitled Small Carnivore Conservation (SCC): preparation for the companion action plan for the Procyonidae (then including Red Panda Ailurus fulgens) highlighted the need for an information forum for that family, too. Otters (Lutrinae of Mustelidae), cats (Felidae, many species of which are smaller in size than some of the ‘small carnivores’) and dogs (Canidae) have their own IUCN/SSC publications (IUCN Otter Specialist Group Bulletin, Cat News and Canid News respectively). In the era before easy and wide internet access (admittedly now difficult to remember), SCC had a big role in short-term communication: notices of conferences, publications, decisions, interim project reports, news snippets, calls for research collaborators, etc. With the rise of the internet, the proportion devoted to items of such ephemeral interest declined, while pages were increasingly holding items of long-term documentary interest. These now comprise almost the entirety of each issue, and all items are now peer-reviewed.
IUCN’s Global Mammal Assessment, the comprehensive review of mammals to assign Red List categories supported by extensive information to each mammal species, was completed in 2008 and provided a tremendous fillip to SCC by highlighting to the wider world the ongoing dearth of information about many species. Manuscript submissions are now at an all-time high, with journal issues twice the typical early length.
A plethora of conventional academic journals publishes research focused on small carnivores. SCC, in addition to complementing existing avenues of publication, also recognises that for now and the foreseeable future, most of the information relevant to most of the small carnivore species is generated incidentally: by conservationists, leisure naturalists, researchers engaged on other topics, and others. Much such information remains unpublished: so doing is often not seen as a priority and even if it is, many conservation practitioners are pressingly short of time.
The goal of SCC is to contribute to small carnivore conservation, and it does this through three primary functions:
1) Capturing as much otherwise unpublished information as possible and placing it in the public domain; many of ‘our’ animals are so poorly known that any information about them is potentially relevant to conservation
2) Assisting potential authors outside the research mainstream, particularly in species-rich tropical countries, in developing the skills and habit of publishing their findings, whether incidental or research
3) Circulating the information widely, particularly in the species-rich tropical countries.
SCC is overseen by the IUCN/SSC Small Carnivore Specialist Group, born (as the IUCN/SSC Mustelid and Viverrid Specialist Group) also in 1989. SCC’s Editors-in-Chief (currently Daniel Willcox and Jose' F. Gonzalez-Maya), the Copy Editor and Technical Editor (Helle V. Goldman) are supported by an Editorial Board (currently numbering 6). The main roles of the members of the editorial board are to: keep themselves aware of information, in their region or topic, that should be being published but may not otherwise be, and to work towards its appearance, often by direct approach to data-holders; assist potential authors outside the international research mainstream develop manuscripts; recommend, in their region or topic, recipients (individuals or bodies) of complementary subscriptions; source funds for continued publication and wide distribution of SCC; locate and capitalise on venues (real or virtual) in their region or topic where attention should be drawn to SCC.
SCC continues to have a strong tropical Asian focus. To an extent this reflects the generally higher threats, both habitat- and harvest-based, to mammals there than in most of the rest of the world. However, it is not intentional, and we are working to increase coverage of the rest of the tropical world, such as by the August 2009 76-page ‘Americas Special’.
You, the reader of this piece, can help SCC in achieving its goal by:
1) Writing up your unpublished information on little-known species (a definition encompassing about 90% of the species!) and urging your colleagues and contacts to do the same
2) Donating funds to cover the ongoing publication costs: your own subscription; money you ear-marked as subscription(s) for specified people or bodies, especially in countries supporting concentrations of little-known small carnivore species; and unrestricted funds for to cover recipients as identified by the editorial board
3) Publicising SCC among government conservation departments, protected-area management bodies, research institutions, NGOs, and other bodies with a presence in areas where live small carnivores of particular conservation concern.
Our financial sponsors and supporters over the past 20 years are indicated as appropriate on the covers of each issue. The SCSG has members who are interested in small carnivores in various ways and are listed in the website. We thank them all, and feel it not invidious to highlight the Zoological Society of Antwerp, Belgium, for their tremendous support through covering the global postage costs of the periodical until 2007, and the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, India, for the diverse institutional support that since 2006 has allowed the publication to exist.