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7 September 2009
A four-week rescue mission by eight Australian and New Zealand bat scientists has failed to capture any Christmas Island pipistrelle bats, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said today.
“Under the outstanding leadership of Dr Lindy Lumsden, our team of volunteers from the Australasian Bat Society and Zoos Victoria has put in an enormous effort, bringing extensive expertise and working very long hours in a physically challenging environment,” Mr Garrett said.
“We knew it was a battle against the odds, as the bats have learned to avoid traps and are very difficult to catch. But a captive breeding program was our last chance of preserving this critically endangered species.
“I share the sadness and disappointment of Dr Lumsden and the staff of Christmas Island National Park, who have worked so hard to save this species over many years as numbers continued to decline.”
Mr Garrett said the fate of the pipistrelle underlined the need to move to a new ecosystem-wide approach to environmental management across Australia,
“Captive breeding is really a policy of last resort — marking decades of failure to maintain healthy ecosystems where species thrive,” Mr Garrett said.
“While the news of this mission is disappointing I am very pleased that efforts to capture threatened forest skinks have been more successful, with more than 12 blue-tailed skinks — two of them pregnant — already in the captive care of park staff and Perth Zoo.
“I am hopeful that we may see a brighter future for these other critically endangered species.
“However, it is the case that Christmas Island's conservation problems are pervasive, chronic and increasing and we need a new long-term, whole of landscape approach to ecosystem management on the island. It is work that the Rudd Government has committed to.”
Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, said he visited the trapping site and spoke with the pipistrelle bat team on Christmas Island only a fortnight ago.
“I thank them for their efforts, and share their disappointment along with that of Christmas Islanders and the nation, that they were unsuccessful in their mission. The struggle to save the bat only underlines the desperate need for the holistic environmental approach of the Rudd Government.”
Mr Garrett said the Government had already commenced work to address some of the significant ecological challenges on the island with the park developing a regional recovery plan for the entire island.
Meanwhile there will be a new aerial onslaught on the yellow crazy ant, the most devastating threat to the island's biodiversity, and an additional $1 million is being invested in better infrastructure to protect Christmas Island's keystone forest species, the migrating red crabs.