Fauna and failure

Last year Western Australia scored the lowest possible score for species recovery in a report by conservation scientists. A year on, nothing has changed.

Twelve months ago, a report by a collection of conservation professors and specialists was released detailing Australia’s threatened species, and what the federal and state governments are and are not doing to protect them. Western Australia scored an ‘F’, the worst possible score. But, has anything changed since then? Despite having a different federal parliament, the answer is: not really.

University of Queensland Professor James Watson, one of the authors of last year’s species recovery report, said losing species is a travesty.

“We have an obligation to make sure we can share our natural world with our children and grandchildren. To lose species is to lose the very fabric of our natural heritage.”

Lake Monger at sunset. Birds and city visible.
Lake Monger, natural home to 38 different bird species. Photo: Beth Mackiewicz. (CC BY-NC-SA).

Professor Watson said that of about 1800 species listed as endangered, only 110 get specific conservation attention from the federal government.

He said the federal government needs to take the lead, as they have the biggest influence in terms of money.

“They have the ability to change laws, and they need to change.”

Federal government funding for species recovery is currently at around $2 million a year. Professor Watson said that is about 10 per cent of what is necessary.

Dr Allan Burbidge who works for the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said the primary threats for many Australian species were habitat loss, introduced species and inappropriate fire regimes. All of these threats, he said, were exacerbated by climate change.

Dr Burbidge said the impact of having threatened species is immeasurable. A species extinction can instigate a chain reaction of issues within the ecosystem it belongs to.

Furthermore, he said the loss of species makes different flora and fauna communities more homogenous, which changes the interactions between species and the impacts on ecosystem services like pollination, seed dispersal, and insect pest control.

Dr Burbidge said actions such as cat and weed management would positively impact threatened plants and animals.

Ghost Bird Consultancy ornithologist Neil Hamilton has devoted much of his time in recent years to researching the elusive night parrot.

The night parrot was once native across the Australian arid zone. Now, with population numbers dwindling, it only resides in WA and Queensland.

Neil Hamilton studying a night parrots wing.
Neil Hamilton with a night parrot during research. Photo: Mark Holdsworth. (CC BY-NC-ND).

The ghost bird, or night parrot, is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN red list. Mr Hamilton has been monitoring it yearly since 2009. However, he said there is still not a lot of information about them due to the parrot’s cryptic nocturnal nature.

More funding from the state government would provide Mr Hamilton and his Ghost Bird Volunteers with better resources to continue their study of the night parrot and the species in its ecosystem.

If you are interested in species recovery, Mr Hamilton encourages reaching out to local groups online and signing up for volunteer programs, like the one he runs every year to study the night parrot.