The Australian government has confirmed the first known extinction of a mammal as a result of human-induced climate change.
Melissa Price, Australia’s Minister for the Environment, announced that the status of the Bramble Cay melomys, a small rodent native to Bramble Cay the northernmost of Australia’s islands, has been changed from “endangered” to “extinct.”
The decision to declare the rodent extinct came three years after the Queensland government reached the same conclusion and 10 years after it was last spotted.
Tim Beshara, federal policy director for the Wilderness Society, said that a 2008 five-year plan to save the species was never reviewed upon its completion.
“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat,” he told a Senate estimates hearing.
“But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”
In a 2016 report confirming the extinction, authors Ian Gynther from the Queensland Government’s Threatened Species Unit and Natalie Walker and Luke Leung from the University of Queensland wrote that its demise “probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change.”
The 2008 “recovery plan” downplayed the meolmys risk of extinction, saying that “the likely consequences of climate change, including sea-level rise and increase in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, are unlikely to have any major impact on the survival of the Bramble Cay melomys.”
Janet Rice, the Greens Senator who chairs the inquiry into Australia’s extinction crisis, said Australia has the worst mammalian extinction rate in the world.
“Business as usual is the death warrant for our threatened animals,” she told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
“The extinction of the Bramble Cay Melomys should be a national tragedy, and the government’s failure to protect Australia’s nearly 500 animals threatened with extinction is an absolute disgrace.
“The environment department says it’s learnt from this extinction and takes extinction seriously, but if it was serious it should be conducting an immediate review of how this happened,” she said.