When last we wrote about the Christmas Island pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus murrayi), things didn't look good for this rare species that is both tiny in size and in population. Just 20 or so of the microbats remain in the world, and conservationists hoped to capture the remaining wild population and start a captive-breeding program, a last-gasp chance to save the species for extinction.

Since then, things haven't gone well.

An attempt to capture and breed bats from a similar species have, so far, failed. The bats proven to be almost impossible to catch, and even harder to keep alive. Just two bats were captured, but one has since died.

The remaining bat needs to be hand-fed to survive, according to Peter Cochrane, Australia's Director of National Parks. Since this was a test-case to see if captive-breeding Christmas Island bats was even possible, it suggests that the future of the critically endangered pipistrelles may be brief.

Meanwhile, wildlife activists have told The Daily Telegraph that the pipistrelle bat population may have become even smaller, and there may now be just four bats left, according to the un-named sources.

Australia still hasn't ruled out funding a captive-breeding program for the increasingly rare bats, and could make a decision in the next month, but the question remains, will any action be in time?

Image: Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), a relative of the Christmas Island pipistrelle, via Wikipedia