Bat extinction inevitable: Garrett

WESTERN AUSTRALIA TODAY

Federal Environment Minister concedes Christmas Island pipistrelle bat will inevitably become extinct.

The Federal Environment Minister has conceded the Christmas Island pipistrelle bat will inevitably become extinct after he received advice from a group of Australian threatened species experts.

The group has recommended actions to address the continued decline of Christmas Island biodiversity but has highlighted some issues associated with a potential captive breeding program for the pipistrelle.

“Sadly, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee has confirmed what we feared, that the pipistrelle is in severe decline and that extinction in the wild is almost inevitable,” Mr Garrett said.

“We are now at a critical stage – despite some $470,000 spent over the last five years under the recovery plan and around $4 million spent slashing the numbers of yellow crazy ants which are the biggest threat to biodiversity on the island, combined with the huge efforts by park managers and independent scientists, these actions have so far failed to reverse the bat’s rapid decline.

“Unfortunately, the Committee has also advised me that there is a high risk associated with a proposed captive breeding program for the pipistrelle with so few left on the island.

“The bats are also very difficult to catch and no-one knows how to keep them alive for breeding,” he said.

Mr Garrett said he was told no captive breeding program for microbats had taken place anywhere in the world.

“I therefore accept that there are unacceptably high risks involved in embarking on an immediate captive breeding program,” he said.

“However, on the Committee’s recommendation, a trial captive breeding program on a closely related species – Pipistrellus westralis – will begin as soon as possible.

“This bat is abundant and secure in the top end of the Northern Territory.”

The Minister said the objective was to demonstrate safe capture methods with the NT bat, and if the trial was successful, it will pave the way for a potential captive breeding program on Christmas Island.

“We will do whatever is practical and feasible to save the pipistrelle – even though it is the case that bat numbers on the island have been in rapid decline for around 14 years now for reasons that are not clear,” he said.

“I am deeply concerned by the fact that its prospects do not appear bright on the basis of our current understanding of the situation.”

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Filed under biodiversity, conservation, endangered, environment, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

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