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November 20 2012

Dead and dying: our great mammal crisis


IN LATE August 2009, a tiny, solitary bat fluttered about in the rainforest near Australia's infamous Christmas Island detention camp. We don't know precisely what happened to it. Perhaps it landed on a leaf at dawn after a night feeding on moths and mosquitoes and was torn to pieces by fire ants; perhaps it succumbed to a mounting toxic burden placed on its tiny body by insecticide spraying. Or maybe it was simply worn out with age and ceaseless activity, and died quietly in its tree-hollow. But there is one important thing we do know: it was the last Christmas Island pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi). With its passing, an entire species winked out of existence.

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