Sunday, November 18, 2012
Australia's Vanishing Animals
One bat may not seem like a big deal. Mammologist Tim Flannery, though, thinks the extinction of one bat species - the Christmas Island pipistrelle - bodes ill for Australia's animals. In this touching and unnerving article, the discoverer of two tree kangaroo species, argues that Australia's unique fauna is on a steep downward slide that will see many more extinctions, including numerous mammals. (Since mammals are, as a rule, the easiest types of animals to convince humans populations to conserve, a bad time for the mammals normally means an even worse fate for other orders.) He makes the interesting note that, in large regions of the country, the medium-sized fauna - between the size of a rat and a kangaroo - is simply missing. Only one species (the salt-water crocodile) has recovered after being placed on Australia's equivalent of the U.S. Endangered Species List, and Flannery believes that many species of all types are sliding into extinction because of government inaction. The bat galls him because he believes he presented a sensible, affordable plan for its salvation to the government, which essentially could not be bothered. One species Flannery thinks is in imminent danger, the bridled nailtail wallaby, was in my 1995 book Rumors of Existence as a case of rediscovery after presumed extinction. The celebration may have been premature.