Australia is the only place in the world where the Melomys rubicola was living and breeding. It lived only on an island in the Torres Strait near the coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG). This island is an area of concern among researchers, residents, as well as the government of both Queensland and Australia. Even though extinction is extreme and rarely happens, Australians are coping with the effects of climate change daily. Moreover, this January was the country’s hottest month on record.
That is why extinction is a process, it takes time for science to demonstrate that a species is gone. The Melomys was first declared endangered by Queensland in 1992 and by the Commonwealth in 1999. The species has not been seen since 2009, then later in 2016 the state determined the rodent was extinct and further investigation led the Commonwealth to agree this week and officially recognized it as extinct.
It seems that both sea levels and water temperatures in the region are rising faster than many species are comfortable with. We can say now that human-induced climate change officially killed off its first mammal species. Scientists say there is a chance that an identical or similar species could yet be discovered in PNG but they are not sure since PNG’s nearby Key River region has been little documented by research.
The state government report said it was almost certainly caused by “ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasion, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals. Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change.”
Australia is saddened over the loss of the rodent, Tim Beshara from the advocacy group The Wilderness Society stated: “The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat. But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”
The Australian government stated they are making efforts and are working on a 2008 “recovery plan” climate change wise and have invested as much as A$425m in threatened species programs. But they have seen a lot of criticism from conservation groups for not providing greater funding. Also, they are not on track regarding their commitment of reducing emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.