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Australian rat is the first mammal to go extinct due to climate change

Australian Government on Tuesday officially declared extinction of Great Barrier Reef rodent, making it the first mammal believed to have been killed off by human-induced climate change.

The rat-like Bramble Cay melomys – inhabited a small coral island on the Great Barrier Reef, measuring about five hectares (12 acres) and located in the Torres Strait, between Queensland state and Papua New Guinea. — has not been spotted in a decade.

According a report published by the University of Queensland in 2016 the mammal had not been seen for almost 10 years and was initially pronounced extinct after “exhaustive” conservation efforts failed.

The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals. Available information about sea-level rise and the increased frequency and intensity of weather events producing extreme high water levels and damaging storm surges in the Torres Strait region over this period point to human-induced climate change being the root cause of the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys said the University in its report.

Australia’s environment ministry on Tuesday said it had officially transferred the animal to the “extinct” list. The declaration was expected. The researchers completed a wide-ranging survey in 2014 in a bid to track down the species but found no trace.

The Melomys rubicola, considered the Great Barrier Reef’s only endemic mammal species, was first discovered on the cay in 1845 by Europeans who shot the “large rats” for sport.

CNN reports several hundred of the rodents were believed to occupy the island in the 1970s. But their population rapidly declined thereafter. By 1992, the population had dropped so sharply that the Queensland state government classified the species as endangered.

Critics of Australia’s conservation efforts say the extinction of the melomys highlights the lack of resources for preserving wildlife.

 A study by the University of Connecticut found that if temperatures continue to rise, nearly 8% of all species worldwide could become extinct. Australia, New Zealand and South America are considered to be at highest risk.

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