On March 2, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment added 12 animal species to its list of those that have gone extinct over the past few hundred years. These include a reptile called the Christmas Island forest skink and 11 mammals, among them species of mouse, bandicoot, bettong, bat, and rabbit-rat.
“There’s not another country, rich or poor, that has anything like this record,” Suzanne Milthorpe, a spokesperson for the Wilderness Society, tells The Sydney Morning Herald. “In signing these extinction certificates the Minister must surely be moved to drive change.”
According to The Guardian, yesterday’s update brings Australia’s list of extinct mammals to 34—making it the “world’s capital for mammal extinction.”
Most of the species disappeared decades ago, but the Christmas Island forest skink (Emoia nativitatis) was seen as recently as 2014, and the Christmas Island pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi), a bat, was last spotted in 2009, according to The Guardian.
John Woinarski, a conservation biologist at Charles Darwin University, tells The Guardian that predation by feral cats and habitat destruction are largely to blame for the mammals’ loss. He adds that the government didn’t sufficiently intervene to save the Christmas Island pipistrelle, even though its imperiled existence was well known. “That was one we really should have been able to save.”
Since 2014, the Australian government has earmarked $535 million (US $417 million) to protect threatened species. “We are working to manage threats to native animals and plants on Christmas Island and across the rest of Australia, including supporting the recovery from the catastrophic black summer bushfires,” a spokesperson for Sussan Ley, Australia’s Minister for the Environment, tells The Guardian.