For the first time, human-caused climate change has claimed its first mammal extinction.
The Australian government recently declared the extinction of a small island rodent called the Bramble Cay or Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat. The species lived in just a single habitat on a small reef island, Sandy Cay, at the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, close to Papua New Guinea. The tiny island which only measures approximately 1,100 feet by 500 feet, rises just three feet above sea level. In recent years, this region has been buffeted by storm surges from extreme weather conditions. According to Scientific American, the rising sea level in addition to worsening storms wiped out almost all of the rodent’s food supply. This incident is a grim reminder of the bleak effects of humans on the global environment.
This year, Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy released an extensive press release describing a need to increase its efforts to protect the country’s endangered and threatened populations. The quiet and grim announcement was buried in the press release between the call to action for stronger protections for other endangered species. This release follows the more detailed declaration by the state government of Queensland three years ago, which itself described an exhaustive search of the Bramble cay seeking any indication of the species’ existence.
Scientific American reports that this second press release recommended moving the Bramble Cay rat, which hasn’t been spotted since 2009, from the endangered list to officially extinct. The Australian government rightly listed human-induced climate change as the primary cause of death for the tiny rodents. This is a stark reminder of the irreversible impact human civilization is making on Earth.