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Tiny bat headed for extinction -

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Tiny bat headed for extinction

The World Today - Friday, 30 January , 2009 12:53:00

Reporter: Michael Vincent

ELIZABETH JACKSON: How well do you know your Australian mammals? Ever heard of a Pipistrelle?

Soon this microbat could be consigned to the history books as a yet another extinct species but a
senior wildlife researcher is calling for this tiny creature to be saved.

Michael Vincent reports.

MICHAEL VINCENT: The Pipistrelle is furry.

LINDY LUMSDEN: Over their body they are all completely furred. Their fur is softer than a cat's
fur.

MICHAEL VINCENT: It's apparently cute.

LINDY LUMSDEN: Absolutely, but that's my bias.

MICHAEL VINCENT: And Dr Lindy Lumsden says this is the sound it makes.

(Sound of Pipistrelle bat)

LINDY LUMSDEN: They're not blind as people often think. They have got good eyesight. But in
addition to that they have a high frequency echo location call which is like a sonar or radar
system where they put out high frequency calls, then from the echoes from their surroundings,
either trees they want to avoid or insects they want to catch, they get a really clear picture of
what's happening around them.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Dr Lumsden is from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment. She
went to visit a friend on Christmas Island 15 years ago and fell in love with the tiny animal.

LINDY LUMSDEN: They are actually the smallest, one of the smallest bats in Australia so these are
less than the weight of a ten cent piece. They're just small and furry and fly around at night
catching insects.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Once common and widespread, it's now unclear what's killing the bats. Seventy-five
per cent of Christmas Island is a national park so its natural habitat is not under threat.

Dr Lumsden says it may have fallen prey to introduced species such as black rats or it could've
been struck down by disease.

She says to bring it back to more sustainable numbers will take ten years.

LINDY LUMSDEN: I am really concerned that there is only as few as maybe 20 individuals left.

MICHAEL VINCENT: What does that mean for the species?

LINDY LUMSDEN: It means that if we don't intervene very, very quickly, the species will go extinct.
If we can't take these remaining animals into captivity to protect them from whatever it is that is
causing the decline and start a captive breeding program to increase the numbers then this species
will go extinct. And it only occurs on Christmas Island so when we lose these last 20 animals, we
will have lost that species.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Research scientist Dr Lindy Lumsden from the Victorian Department of
Sustainability and Environment.