A melomys from the Torres Strait which gives an idea of the size of Bramble Cay melomys © Rebecca Diete and Luke Leung

A melomys from the Torres Strait which gives an idea of the size of Bramble Cay melomys © Rebecca Diete and Luke Leung

Extinction of the Bramble Cay Melomys highlights Australia’s species crisis

14 Jun 2016

Keywords
  • climate change
  • great barrier reef
In what is a sad reminder of the inadequate protection of Australia’s threatened and endangered species by State and Federal Governments, the extinction of Australia’s rare Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola) was confirmed today.
 
This distinct mosaic-tailed rodent was one of the most threatened mammals in Australia, and lived on a small island at the top of the Great Barrier Reef.
 
report from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the University of Queensland points to rising sea-levels caused by human-induced climate change as being the root cause of the extinction.
 
A 2008 study revealed that a population of less than 100 individuals inhabited Bramble Cay in the Torres Strait, an area at risk from inundation, storm surges and other impacts of climate change.
 
The small population and the unstable nature of Bramble Cay led to the species being listed as ‘Endangered’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
 
WWF-Australia spokesperson Darren Grover said that the melomys’ extinction is a sad reminder of Australia’s extinction crisis and that State and Federal governments must set politics aside and act fast to turn the situation around.
 
“Australia’s species extinction crisis is not something that occurred hundreds of years ago, it’s happening right now. Australia officially has the worst rate of mammal extinction in the world,” said Mr Grover.
 
“Unless State Governments and the next Australian Government commit significant amounts of funding towards protecting Australia’s threatened species, we can expect to see more native critters go extinct on our watch.
 
“With the coral bleaching disaster, and now the extinction of the Bramble Cay Melomys, the Great Barrier Reef has become the face of climate change,” he said.
 
In the lead up to the upcoming federal election, WWF is calling on all political parties to dedicate more funding to the implementation of the country’s Threatened Species Strategy which aims to reverse Australia’s species decline.  

“This requires $100 million a year over the next five years to protect critical habitats, deliver large-scale threatened species recovery, and reduce feral and invasive animal populations long-term,” said Mr Grover.

“At a minimum this program should lock in improved trajectories for the 20 bird and 20 mammal species identified as in need of critical action within the Threatened Species Strategy, yet swift action is critical.
 
“We also need to ensure Australia does our fair share to prevent global warming.
 
All parties contesting the election should commit to taking action now, to help stop extinctions like this in the future. To do this, Australia needs to commit to a plan to transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and to achieve Net Zero Carbon Pollution before 2050.”

Mr Grover said that the loss of the unique and intriguing Bramble Cay melomys, a genetically important component of Australia’s mammalian fauna, would add to Australia’s already embarrassing mammal extinction record.
 
“Australia promised the world that by 2020, the extinction of the country’s threatened species would be prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, would be improved and sustained,” he said.
 
“We are obviously not on track to achieve this goal. A commitment to prevent global warming and a dramatic change in funding for the country’s Threatened Species Strategy is needed as part of the upcoming election if we are to safeguard our unique wildlife into the future.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager +61 (0)432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au
 

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