The golden-tipped bat is the 2023 Australian Mammal of the Year!

It was a fierce competition between our three finalists – the golden-tipped bat, the dingo, and the Gilbert’s Potoroo – with each of the species receiving thousands of votes. In the end it was very close, but ultimately the golden-tipped bat was able to pull ahead to be the winner of the 2023 Australian Mammal of the Year competition!

Over the course of Australian Mammal of the Year we’ve had tens of thousands of votes cast in a great show of commitment to our amazing mammals. This year’s Top 3 have also highlighted three very diverse aspects of species conservation.

An image of the top 3 in australian mammal of the year. The dingo, gilbert's potoroo, and golden-tipped bat
2023 Australian Mammal of the Year Top 3. Credit: Marc Blazewicz

After being on the brink of extinction for decades, the incredibly rare, critically endangered Gilbert’s Potoroo has thousands of supporters who are passionate about its continued survival.

Our controversial canid, the dingo, has a slightly different tribe – inspiring both love and hate with many people both for and against it in the competition.

The winner really gets to the heart of Australian Mammal of the Year, as many following along likely hadn’t heard about the golden-tipped bat before now. Despite being found in dense forest all the way down the east coast from north Queensland to just beyond the Victorian border, this potentially overlooked Australian species now has its turn in the spotlight.

“Who knew Australians were so batty about bats?” says Cosmos editor, Gail MacCallum. “Each year, I love learning about species that have slipped under my radar. The golden-tipped bat is a worthy winner in a year we’re talking not just about the species, but the landscapes they inhabit.

“This little sweetheart relies on bird species for housing – which in turn rely on insects – spiders for food, and of course the dense forest which protects them all. It’s a marvellous part of an interconnected system, which I find pretty amazing – and definitely worth celebrating.”

A standing ovation for the golden-tipped bat!

The gilded master of camouflage, the golden-tipped bat, comes in at about the length of an average person’s thumb and weighs somewhere between a 10 and 20 cent coin. They’re small, but mighty.

Golden-tipped bats have a highly specialised diet, snacking on orb-weaving spiders that they pluck from their webs.

A close up photo of a golden-tipped bat
Golden-tipped bat (Phoniscus papuensis). Credit: George Madani

Their radar-shaped ears, and the ultra-high frequency calls they emit, allow them to navigate through the cluttered forest understorey and lock in on their prey. The extremely high frequency ultrasonic call are high resolution, but they drop off over distance, so the bats need to fly close to the forest floor. Basically, they’re interpreting a highly detailed 3D map as they fly and echolocate!

The name comes from the species’ deluxe fur, which helps them to blend into the wiry fibres that make up their homes – or, should I say, others’ homes. In another amazing and unusual feat, the golden-tipped bat likes to free-load in the suspended nests of unsuspecting birds, even if they’re still occupied! They scratch out a chamber below the nests of yellow-throated shrubwrens and brown gerygones – which are suspended. Up to 12 bats have been found happily squished in together in a single space.

A colony of golden-tipped bats roosting
A colony of golden-tipped bats roosting. Credit: Brad Law

What a way to learn about this little-known species for the first time! Crowned Australian Mammal of the Year in its first foray into the competition, it’s a fantastic first effort.

You can read more about the golden-tipped bat here.

In second place, well done to the dingo!

For a second year in a row Australia’s largest land-based top predator, the dingo, has bounded all the way to second place in Australian Mammal of the Year. What a paw-some outcome for the dingo!

These agile animals are very flexible and are also expert climbers – able to jump 2 metres vertically and scale fences. This allows them to move through Australia’s rugged country and catch their prey with ease.

Portrait photograph of a dingo in profile
Dingo. Credit: Angus Emmott

In fact, they’re so well adapted to life on this continent that they’re found all over mainland Australia (except Tasmania). This in large part due to their broad and adaptable palate – dingoes will eat almost everything from human food scraps, to fruit, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Well done to the dingo! You can read more about it here.

In third place, good job to Gilbert’s Potoroo!

What a comeback from the Gilbert’s Potoroo, improving on last year’s fifth placing! The Gilbert’s Potoroo is the ultimate comeback kid, being a Lazarus species after all. After missing from the records for 120 years and thought extinct, it came “back from the dead” in 1994 after being rediscovered at Two Peoples Bay in Western Australia.

Gilbert's potoroo
Gilbert’s potoroo. Credit: Dick Walker/Gilbert’s Potoroo Action Group

Today, there are only 100-120 Gilbert’s Potoroos left, with “safe haven” populations on Middle Island and Bald Island established using Two Peoples Bay animals as founders. We have a second chance to protect and conserve this beautiful species, so that it can continue to dig for truffles in the soil (which make up about 94% of its diet) and help protect the health of its habitat into the future.

You can learn more about the Gilbert’s Potoroo here.

Rounding out the Top 10

4. Australian fur seal

5. Mountain pygmy possum

6. Spectacled flying-fox

7. Dugong

8. Platypus

9. Ghost bat

10. Greater bilby

Australian Mammal of the Year will be back again next year

Many thanks to the mammal experts who contributed their time and expertise to writing 50 entertaining and educative articles about the nominated species.

Thank you to everyone behind the scenes who worked diligently to make 2023’s Australian Mammal of the Year such a great success.

And of course, thank you to the readers and voters who have come along on this ride with us, learning and spreading the word about our incredible mammals and the competition.

Let’s make the third year our best yet!

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