By Erik Sherman
February 20, 2019

Climate change has just claimed its first mammalian species victim. The Australian government has officially listed the Bramble Cay melomys as extinct.

The small brown rat has not been seen since 2009. The small rat-like was thought to be the only mammal native to the Great Barrier Reef. It was found only on a small sand island near the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Scientists first thought that the animal might have become extinct in 2014, according to a report from the University of Queensland and the Queensland government, when a “survey effort involving 900 small mammal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species.”

The reason for the extinction, according to the scientists was human-made climate change that produced “extreme high water levels and damaging storm surges that could have destroyed the habitat of the species, including its sources of food, and possibly directly killed the creatures.

Australia has the third highest extinction rate of all nations, surpassed by only French Polynesia and the Republic of Mauritius, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat,” Tim Beshara, a spokesperson for Australian conversation group The Wilderness Society, told the BBC. “But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”

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