G+ YouTube Pinterest Instagram
The Gap Year Blog

Bramble Cay Melomys Becomes the First Mammal To Go Extinct Due To Climate Change

21 Feb 2019 15:45 PM

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Edited with Permission by Frontier


Bramble Cay melomys is the first mammalian species declared extinct as a result of human-caused climate change. As of February 2019, the Australian government has officially moved this rodent, an inhabitant of a small sand island near the coast of Papua New Guinea, from the endangered list to the extinct list. A similar decision was made by Queensland state government three years earlier.

For the past five years, researchers have tried to locate any members of this melomys family without success. The last known sighting of Bramble Cay melomys was made by a fisherman who recalls seeing several individuals in 2009.

The report from the state government said that the extinction was caused by repeated ocean water inundations which resulted in the loss of habitat and plants providing food and shelter for the mammals. Likewise, the average sea level rise in the are has been a quarter inch per year.

There is a minor chance that a similar species could be found from Papua New Guinea’s nearby Key River region which is largely unexamined. But currently, there’s no scientific research to support this.

Australia had a recovery plan in place for Bramble Cay melomys which was drafted back in 2008, a year before the last detection of the rodent. The report seems to have downplayed the risks the species was facing and is now drawing attention to Australia’s other conservation efforts.

The current government of Australia defends its conservation attempts. Australia has invested A$425m (£233m) in threatened species programmes, an amount and measure not great enough according to some conservation groups. At this time, Australia has one of the fastest extinction rates in the world.

There are still hundreds of endangered species in Australia. The Bramble Cay melomys may have been unknown to many, but its passing has touched people all over the world.

“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat," Tim Beshara, the federal policy director for the Wilderness Society, said. "But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed."

By Tiia Kärkkäinen - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!