The Bramble Cay melomys. Photo: Queensland government

On Monday the Australian government has recognized the first known demise of a mammal because of human-induced climate change. In a statement released by federal Environment Minister Melissa Price, the status of the Bramble Cay melomys (a small rodent) was moved from endangered to extinct. As CNN reported, the Bramble Cay melomys inhabited a small coral island on the Great Barrier Reef, measuring about five hectares (12 acres) and located in the Torres Strait, between Queensland state and Papua New Guinea. The almost certain cause of its extinction was sea level rise that destroyed its habitat.

CNN further explained that several hundred of the rodents were believed to occupy the island in the 1970s. But their population rapidly declined thereafter. By 1992, the population had dropped so sharply that the Queensland state government classified the species as endangered. The mammal had not been seen for almost 10 years and was initially pronounced extinct after “exhaustive” conservation efforts failed, according to a report published by the University of Queensland in 2016. The federal policy director for the Wilderness Society, Tim Beshara, said that “The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat, but it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”

Why This Matters: The Bramble Cay melomys is likely the first of many species who will become extinct as a result of a warming planet. As humans, our “habitats” are changing as well but we have a little bit more recourse in the sense that we can turn on the air conditioning or build seawalls. Animals cannot adapt to climate change in the same way and often their habitats are changing quite rapidly. That’s why campaigns like 30 by 30, in which 13 conservation organizations are urging world leaders to protect 30% of the Earth’s surface to be protected by 2030, are so important. Habitat loss is a major driver of animal extinction and Australian Senator Janet Rice, chair of the Senate inquiry into Australia’s animal extinction crisis, said the country already had the worst mammalian extinction rate in the world, and one of the highest overall extinction rates.

Go Deeper: S/o to Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle for covering this story on their MSNBC show, climate change warrants major coverages on cable news!

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