The Southern bent-winged bat swooped ahead of the dingo early and held onto its lead through some fierce competition in the two days of intense voting! In the end, this critically endangered microbat triumphed in the competition with almost 60% of the vote.
A round of applause for the Southern bent-wing bat!
Southern bent-wing bats live in caves throughout southwest Victoria and southeast South Australia. This tiny, cave-dwelling bat only reaches an average length of approximately 5 centimetres (including their head and body) and weighs only 15 grams – that’s the same as a 50-cent coin!
Though they can see, they also use echolocation to hunt and navigate by sound, which is helpful when catching flying insects like mosquitoes and moths at night. In fact, the bats can fly more than 70 kilometres in just a few hours and colonies can collectively munch on hundreds of kilograms of flying insects each night – many of which are agricultural pests.
By congregating in large numbers at one of their key maternity caves at Naracoorte Caves World Heritage Area, they can transform the conditions in the maternity chamber of the cave to make it more humid and up to 12° warmer. These changes are thought to help with the development of the young – much like a humidicrib for human babies.
Unfortunately, drought, widespread loss of foraging habitat, and disturbance or loss of caves are among several threats to this already critically endangered species. Best available data suggests that, if current survival rates continue, the total population could decline by as much as 97% over the next few decades.
Read more about the Southern bent-wing bat here.
Raising awareness for our over 340 native mammal species
In 2022 alone, six native mammal species had their conservation statuses upgraded from vulnerable to endangered or endangered to critically endangered: three occurred just in the six weeks of our tally.
“The vast majority of our native mammals are found nowhere else on Earth, we really do need to be more aware of the animals that we have,” says Professor Euan Ritchie, a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation researcher at Deakin University.
“When we know about a species, we care about them. And when we care about them, we want to help them and we want to give them that attention, that focus, the funding that they deserve,” adds Dr Marissa Parrott, a reproductive biologist at Zoos Victoria.
“I think the part of competition that’s been so fantastic is it’s getting conversations happening, talking about species they might not have heard of. And that community awareness and support is really important for changing the trajectory of some of our endangered species,” says Dr Emmi van Harten, co-ordinator for the Southern Bent-winged Bat National Recovery Team, Zoos Victoria.
“When you look at the amazing mammals that have been profiled through Australian Mammal of the Year, every single one of them deserves to win,” says Parrott.
In second place, well done to the dingo!
Coming second this year is the dingo. As Australia’s largest land-based apex predator, dingoes play an important ecological role in ecosystems by suppressing feral cats, red foxes, and the over-abundance of native herbivores and omnivores.
They’re also highly variable in their size and appearance. Though their tan coat may be the most iconic, dingoes may also be black, black and tan, black and white, brindled, ginger, sable, white or a patchy mixture of colours.
You can read more about the dingo here.
Rounding out the top 10:
- Mountain Pygmy Possum
- Gilbert’s potoroo
- Eastern barred bandicoot
- Northern quoll
- Southern brown bandicoot
Australian Mammal of the Year will be back next year.
Thanks and gratitude is due to the mammal experts who contributed their time and expertise to writing almost 50 articles about our nominated mammal species for our website. These articles have been read over 100,000 times and have been distributed to regional news publications through our partnership with Australian Community Media.
Lastly, thank you readers and voters. You’ve come along on the journey with us, learning, exploring and spreading the word about the competition and our incredible native mammals.
We can’t wait for next year.
Originally published by Cosmos as The Southern bent-wing bat is the 2022 Australian Mammal of the Year
Imma Perfetto is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Science Communication from the University of Adelaide.
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