Today is Australia’s National Threatened Species Day. It is supposed to draw attention to what we are doing to our wildlife.
Since Europeans first settled in Australia 222 years ago, we have managed to wipe out over 50% of our native fauna species. A stain. We have also eliminated at least the same percentage of flora species, if not more. Another stain.
Today, there are over 1,600 native plant and animal species facing extinction. A blot. Over 140 of them are on the critical list. A stain. Human activity is almost entirely responsible for this. Stain. The land and ressources that we use for living space, food, clothing, housing, fuel… The invasive plants and animals that have been, and sometimes are still being, introduced into this country… The things that we buy, the waste that we produce… All of these things contribute.
Australia’s international image is partly founded on our unique animals. However, at the moment, only about 11% of Australia’s land is classed as protected areas. A blot. Less than five per cent of our marine environments are protected from industrial activities and mining. A stain.
We need to reform legislation to save what is left of our wildlife, including plants, landscapes and seascapes. We need to protect our unique biodiversity, control pests, weeds and pollution, and enhance our system of national parks and reserves. This needs to be done in complete co-operation with our Aboriginal peoples. They have thousands of years of experience with Australia’s different environments.
Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF – Australia, draws attention to five endangered animal species.
Carnaby’s black cockatoo can live for more than 20 years in the wild and forms a lifetime bond with his partner. Flocks of them fly over Parliament House in Perth, on their way to King’s Park. The flocks are dying of heat-stress during increasingly hotter summers. They fly in wider and wider circles in search of food, over sprawling suburbs, where heath and banksia woodland used to be. They need us to protect the habitat necessary for them to forage and roost, as well as their breeding habitats, and prevent dangerous climate change that is causing more extreme weather conditions.
The graceful coastal-dwelling dugong lives in clear, shallow water with a direct view of the sky, in the company of family and friends. He spends his days eating seagrass, and can live up to 70 years. Toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are affecting the seagrass that he eats. Rampant coastal development, increasing boat traffic and inappropriate land-clearing are having a dramatic impact on the dugong’s survival. The dugongs need us to stop dangerous chemicals and pesticides from washing down into the waters where they live.
The yellow-footed rock wallaby‘s joeys are taken by feral cats and foxes. It is more and more difficult for her to find food for her family, with invasive goats, rabbits and sheep competing for food around her home. All that the yellow-footed rock wallaby needs is better protection, so that she and her joeys can live in peace, with ample food, safe from the ravenous appetites of foxes and cats.
The rare and very recently discovered snubfin dolphin often carries brutal scars from propellers, vessel strikes, fishing nets, and fishing lines. They won’t survive unless we can protect them through marine sanctuaries and protected areas.
Nature’s little digger, the woylie, is now one of Australia’s most endangered species. This is due to extensive landclearing, and being hunted almost to extinction by foxes and feral cats. To survive, they need a safe place to live, protected from invasive species.
Mr O’Gorman gives a list of things that must be done by Australia’s new Government, when we finally get one.
1. Establish a network of marine protected areas over Australian waters, and manage them effectively.
“The critical habitats of our marine mammals are threatened by industrial activities in our oceans, and by development along the coast. Marine sanctuaries will protect marine species such as turtles, whales and dolphins.”
2. Ban dangerous pesticides that pose unacceptable risks to people and wildlife. The previous Government committed to reducing reef pollution.
“Every year, 14 million tonnes of mud, pesticides and chemical fertilizers wash into the Great Barrier Reef. Endosulfan, banned in over 60 countries, is still available for use in Australia. Herbicides such as Diuron and Atrazine are being detected in harmful concentrations inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
“The risk from pollutants is critical for some of our most vulnerable marine mammals.”
3. Build a network of wildlife corridors and provide wildlife conservation.
“No government should allow more species to become extinct, yet Australia’s threatened wildlife populations continue to decline.
“We need our government to commit to a “Linking Landscapes” programme of grants to Australian landholders who protect wildlife corridors and other important habitats on their properties.”
4. Boost funding for new nature reserves.
“WWF will continue to work with the new government so that it commits to programmes that will boost the likelihood of survival for hundreds of Australia’s beleaguered native species.
“National parks and nature reserves are among the most successful and effective on-ground conservation programmes, bringing critical habitats and climate refuges into the National Reserve System.”
Mr O’Gorman adds:
“Losing a species to extinction robs future generations of great natural riches and can unravel ecosystems on which all our lives depend.”
The WWF website can be found at http://wwf.org.au . Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org . The telephone is 61 2 9281 5515 (or 1800 032 551 for credit card donations). The facsimile is 61 2 9281 1060. Online donations can be made at http://wwf.org.au/threatened-species/