The government of Australia has officially recognised the Bramble Coy melomys as extinct. The small rodent, found solely on a single island in the Eastern Torres Strait of the Great Barrier Reef, is the world’s first mammal to become a casualty of climate change.
Bramble Cay, the name of both the animal and its home, is at most only 10 feet above sea level. Since 1998, the section of the island that sits above high tide has shrunk from 3.9 hectares to 2.5 hectares – the rodents therefore losing approximatively 97% of their habitat.
The animal was last seen by a fisherman in 2009 and failed attempts to it down in 2014 led scientists to believe it was likely extinct.
“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals,” claimed a state government report.
The loss of an animal little known in the public mind has caused sadness and regret in Australia and abroad.
“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat,” said Tim Beshara, a spokesman for advocacy group The Wilderness Society.
“But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”
By Natarsha Brown