Extinct rat rediscovered in Australia

October 14th, 2008 - 12:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 14 (IANS) The desert rat, a small mammal classified as “presumed extinct” since 1857, has been spotted in New South Wales’ (NSW) Sturt National Park.University of North South Wales (UNSW) student Ulrike Kloecker described the discovery as exciting.

“After all this time I have worked here, I believed I knew all the species that occurred in the area. I never thought I would actually have to get the mammal identification book out again,” she said.

Ulrike works at the Sturt National Park, under the department of environment and climate change (DECC), which supported the PhD project investigating the ecology of the small mammal and reptile communities.

She found the spiky-looking plump mouse with a distinct buff-orange ring around the eyes sitting at the bottom of a pit trap.

The desert mouse is known to occur in arid zones in other parts of Australia, but Ulrike’s research has put the mammal back on the map in NSW, according to an UNSW press release.

“The nearest known localities are about 400 km further north in Queensland and around 350 km further west in South Australia, so this find extends the known distribution by several hundred kilometres,” Ulrike said.

National Parks and Wildlife Service Tibooburra Area Manager Ingrid Witte said it is not the first time a mammal presumed extinct has emerged in the treasure trove that is the Sturt National Park.

“In 2003, the dusky hopping mouse was removed from the presumed extinct list after being rediscovered in Sturt and a species not detected for more than two decades - the ‘long haired rat’ was found in earlier research.”

“These finds show the real value of protected areas as refuges for rare and endangered species in NSW,” Witte said.

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