Well folks, it looks like this is it for the Christmas Island pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus murrayi). This critically endangered species of microbat now appears to be doomed to impending extinction as last-gasp efforts to capture the few remaining bats and place them in a captive breeding program have failed.
Eight scientists, along with volunteers from the Australasian Bat Society, spent the last four weeks on Christmas Island (a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean), but were unable to capture a single bat.
"We knew it was a battle against the odds, as the bats have learned to avoid traps and are very difficult to catch," says Peter Garrett, Australia's minister for environment (and former Midnight Oil singer). "But a captive breeding program was our last chance of preserving this critically endangered species."
Garrett also acknowledged that captive breeding was always "a policy of last resort," since Christmas Island faces many environmental issues which need to be tackled before the area could once again become hospitable for the bats.
One of the biggest problems on Christmas Island is an invasive species, the yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes), which also threatens the famous Christmas Island red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis). Garrett has promised a new "aerial assault" against the ants, as well as AU$1 million (approximately $850,000) to improve the island's infrastructure and help migrating crabs, a key tourist attraction in the region.
When we first wrote about the Christmas Island pipistrelle bat back in February, Lindy Lumsden, a research scientist at Australia's Department of Sustainability and Environment, said there were just 20 bats left, and gave the species just six months before it would disappear into extinction. It appears that six months have now passed, and so, too, may have this tiny bat.
Image: Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), a relative of the Christmas Island pipistrelle, via Wikipedia