Bat thought extinct found in PNG
A 'microbat' thought to be extinct has been rediscovered in Papua New Guinea.
A 'microbat' thought to be extinct has been re-discovered in Papua New Guinea.
The New Guinea big-eared bat was found by two students from Australia's University of Queensland in 2012.
After it was studied for some time, an Australian researcher specializing in long-eared bats has now identified it as the Pharotis Imogene which had not been recorded since 1890.
Indira Moala reports.
Twenty-four-year old Catherine Hughes was doing research in 2012 in Papua New Guinea for her Honours project. Twenty-five-year old PhD student Julie Broken-Brow, was there assisting her. Both students captured the bat on the edge of logged forest near an old coconut plantation now covered with grassland.
Ms Hughes says they set up traps almost every day to capture the microbats but were surprised when they found the unique species.
CATHERINE HUGHES: We set the trap up one afternoon in a recently logged forest. And so we set the trap on a skid track. We made sure the trap was covered on both sides by vegetation. So it would kind of attract the microbats to fly towards the trap. So the next morning when we went to check the trap, surprisingly we found this microbat.
Once they examined the bat, they realized it did not match any species already known to exist. Ms Broken-Bow says after consulting with other microbat scientists in Australia and Papua New Guinea, they ethically euthanized the bat and registered it with the PNG National Museum. She says many species can only be identified through skull measurements so the bat needed further examination in order to be identified.
JULIE BROKEN-BROW: It took some time and negotiations between Papua New Guinea Museum and Australian Museum and we had an excellent advocate for the bat in Dr Harry Parnaby who works with the Australian Museum. He's actually an expert in long-eared bats and he was the one who compared it to the specimen of the Pharotis Imogene that we had in the Australian Museum. And he was the one who positively identified it and he rang us up with the great news.
The bat is currently listed in the top 100 of the world's most unique and endangered mammals. Ms Hughes says her research was actually looking into the effect of logging on smaller mammals and she did not expect the unique discovery.
CATHERINE HUGHES: The thing with PNG is that most of the country hasn't been surveyed with harp traps. So I think this was a big advantage for us to see what microbats we can catch with our harp traps when we took it out for the project.
INDIRA MOALA: And PNG is one of the hottest biodiversity spots in the world I understand.
CATHERINE HUGHES: Yep that's right.
INDIRA MOALA: So did you expect when you went there on research that you would find something new?
CATHERINE HUGHES: Honestly I never thought about it but I mean, in PNG people are finding new species every week or every month, but at that time I didn't even think that we would catch something new or unexpected.
The trap that caught the bat was only at the site for two nights, making the discovery particularly lucky as Ms Broken-Brow points out.
JULIE BROKEN-BROW: You know it's always the luck of the draw with wildlife. You never know what you're going to get. The IUCN has it as 'critically endangered, presumed extinct' as its classification and in some of the literature it was thought that it might still be present but it's just the lack of trapping effort that basically meant that no-one had ever caught it since the original captures. We've only had that one tiny snapshot in time from 1890 so you can understand why it has such great interest around it.
Luke Leung, Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland who was a supervisor for the girls' research says it is very rare to recapture a species after more than 120 years.
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