First Mammal Falls Victim to Extinction Due to Climate Change

This rat was considered endangered in 1992.

extinct mammal
This small rat from Australia is no longer with us. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

A small brown rat from a tiny island off northern Australia is the world’s first mammal known to have become extinct due to “human-induced climate change.”

The Bramble Cay melomys once inhabited a small coral island on the Great Barrier Reef, CNN reported.

The mammal had not been seen for almost 10 years and was initially pronounced extinct in 2016 after “exhaustive” conservation efforts failed. That classification was confirmed by the Australian government this week.

The cause of its extinction was “almost certainly ocean inundation” from rising sea levels over the past decade, which had led to “dramatic habitat loss,” according to the report.

“It’s not a decision to take lightly,” Geoff Richardson, assistant secretary for environment and energy, told members of the Senate. “When something is listed as extinct it essentially ceases to get any protection.”

Several hundred of the rodents occupied the island in the 1970s, but their population rapidly declined into “endangered” by 1992.

Critics of Australia’s conservation efforts said the extinction of the melomys is symptomatic of a lack of resources surrounding preservation efforts.

“Bramble Cay melomys’ extinction is an absolute tragedy,” said Greens party senator Janet Rice, who is chairing a senate inquiry into the country’s extinction crisis. “Labor and Liberal’s addiction to coal is the death warrant for many of our other threatened animals.”

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