A new book about the recent extinction of an Australian bat is highlighting the detrimental impact of humans.
A Bat’s End: The Christmas Island Pipistrelle and Extinction in Australia tracks the demise of bats on Christmas Island following human settlement.
The books author professor John Woinarski from Charles Darwin University’s Research Institute of Environment and Livelihoods said he hoped the book would serve as an obituary and an inquest.
“The book is a mark of respect because the extinction of any species should not go unrecognised,”
“But beyond that, it is a plea to manage our environments with more care, responsibility and consideration of the legacy we should leave to following generations.
“In the eyes of many, the Christmas Island pipistrelle might seem unremarkable. It looked much like many other small Australian bats.
Changes in habitat could effect two bats we have near Katherine, the orange leaf-nosed bat and the ghost bat- Ranger Clare Pearce
“However, the manner of its loss is a cautionary tale because many of the same policy, legal and funding shortcomings that failed to prevent this extinction still exist and will also compromise the recovery of many other threatened species across our country,” he said.
Closer to home, Community Education Officer with Parks and Wildlife Clare Pearce said two bats found in the Cutta Cutta Caves could be impacted by human settlement.
“Changes in habitat could effect two bats we have near Katherine, the orange leaf-nosed bat and the ghost bat,” ranger Clare said.
“Land clearing and changes in the water table could change the cave environment and cause the critters to want to leave, seeking somewhere else to live,” she said.
Professor Woinarski said Christmas Island is a 21st century extinction hot spot, a place now irreversibly changed by humans.
“Mining and the introduction of invasive species have changed the ecology of Christmas Island forever,” he said.
And unlike the downfall of most other species, scientists can identify the precise moment the pipistrelle disappeared from the planet.
Professor Woinarski said it was on August 26, 2009 when the last bat emerged from its shelter.
“It flew along its regular foraging beat for several hours, detected by a group of scientists desperate to conserve the species.
“The bat was not recorded again that night. It was not recorded the next night. The bat was never recorded again,” he said.
To make matters worse, researchers say the extinction of the Christmas Island pipistrelle was preventable.
“Population monitoring gave ample warning that it would become extinct unless effective management was implemented,” professor Woinarski said.
“This might be the story about one extinct species, but it’s also an attempt to draw lessons that may reduce the likelihood of such an extinction recurring again,” he said.
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