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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

The Hon Warren Snowdon MP
Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health & Regional Services Delivery Member for Lingiari

Christmas Island ecosystem rescue

Joint Media Release
1 July 2009

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The Australian Government will invest $1.5 million to begin the rescue of Christmas Island’s ecosystem, including a mission to capture the last remaining pipistrelle bats for captive breeding.

Releasing the interim report of the Christmas Island expert working group, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said he agreed that the island’s conservation problems are pervasive, chronic and increasing

“Preparations are underway to try and capture the last pipistrelles in the new moon phase in three weeks time, from 22nd to 27th July,” Mr Garrett said

“Whilst the latest genetic tests show this bat is closely related to Indonesian pipistrelles and the experts warn there is a low likelihood of successful capture and breeding, I cannot simply stand by and wait for the inevitable extinction of this bat

“The offer of volunteers and help from the Australasian Bat Society will be invaluable in this capture effort.

Parks Australia will work in partnership with Australian zoos on a captive breeding program, should the capture attempt be successful

“My top priority now is to prevent any further extinctions and to restore the island’s environmental health,” Mr Garrett said

“A captive breeding program will begin immediately for two reptile species, the blue-tailed and forest skinks, which are also in danger of extinction

“The current island-wide biodiversity survey will be followed in September by aerial baiting of the island’s fiercest invasive pests, the yellow crazy ants – the biggest threat to the island’s ecosystem

“And we will invest significant rescue funds in enhancing the protection of the migrating red crabs, which are keystone forest species and drivers of ecosystem health.

Mr Garrett said he agreed with the experts on the need for a new long-term, whole of landscape approach to ecosystem management

“There has been a pipistrelle recovery plan in place for the past seven years – and despite the best efforts of Australian bat experts and park staff, looking at a species in isolation hasn’t worked.

Mr Garrett said a number of the expert group’s complex recommendations could not be resolved immediately. The group will collect and analyse more data, before providing final assessments and recommendations later this year

Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon said it was important to preserve the extraordinary ecosystems of Christmas island.

"From bats to birds, to crabs, and to plants, Christmas Island is home to species found nowhere else, but without intervention they will soon be lost.  Enormous ongoing efforts have been made to stabilise and restore the Island's biodiversity, and I welcome the renewed effort and commitment from the Rudd Government to conserve the island's valuable environment."

Commonwealth of Australia