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5 February 2009
Environment Minister Peter Garrett has asked Australia’s leading threatened species experts -the Threatened Species Scientific Committee – for urgent advice on the Christmas Island pipistrelle bat.
Mr Garrett said a draft report on survey work carried out in January 2009 has indicated a rapid decline in pipistrelle numbers on the island.
“I have asked the Threatened Species Scientific Committee for urgent advice on the feasibility of a captive breeding program and any other appropriate conservation actions for the pipistrelle bat,” Mr Garrett said.
“I have also asked the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to help establish a new expert group which will consider threats to biodiversity on Christmas Island. They will provide advice on conservation priorities to address the causes of biodiversity decline on the island in the light of dwindling populations and range of some other native species.”
The Christmas Island pipistrelle is a small bat – less than 5 grams in weight – that only occurs on Christmas Island. Its status was upgraded to critically endangered in 2006 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Despite years of intensive monitoring by Christmas Island National Park and research by independent experts, the direct causes of the pipistrelle’s decline are not known. Contributing factors may include habitat loss, climatic conditions, disease and introduced predators and pests.
Christmas Island National Park has been implementing the national recovery plan for the pipistrelle since 2004, including action to protect roost trees and foraging habitat, monitoring of potential predators by cameras, blood tests for possible disease, and surveys of distribution. This work will continue while the Threatened Species Scientific Committee considers the draft report.