Monday, 28 May 2012

First mammal extinction in Australia for 50 years – Dos and don’ts of saving a species

Christmas Island Pipistrelle declared extinct
May 2012. Failure to act quickly on evidence of rapid population decline has led to the first mammal extinction in Australia in the last 50 years, the Christmas Island Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi). The fate of another iconic species, the migratory Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster), monitored intensively for over 20 years, hangs in the balance. 

Christmas Island Pipistrelle
The Christmas Island Pipistrelle, a small 3.5 g insectivorous bat, was endemic to the 135 km2 Christmas Island, an Australian External Territory, located 1500 km north-west of Australia in the Indian Ocean. Management of Christmas Island is the responsibility of the Australian Federal Government. The species was widespread when described in 1900. Subsequent observations suggest it remained common until 1984. In 1994 and 1998, systematic surveys of the pipistrelle using harp traps and echolocation detectors revealed that the species was in marked decline.
The precise cause of the decline remains unknown but it was probably the result of a complex cascade of negative impacts due to the colonization of the bat's habitat by a suite of invasive species and possibly some form of disease.
2001 - Listed as Endangered
In 2001, the bat was listed as Endangered under the Commonwealth of Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Following a recommendation in the recovery plan, the species was monitored intensively from 2004 onwards. The main objectives of the recovery plan included maximizing population viability in the wild, monitoring the population, and investigating potential threats to determine the cause of the decline.

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