Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Australia faces ‘extinction calamity’

  • Written by  Tom Hayes
  • Published in Wildlife
A bilby, unknown to most Australians A bilby, unknown to most Australians Susan Flashman
17 Feb
2015
One in ten of Australia’s indigenous mammal species has become extinct in the past 200 years, according to a new survey of Australia’s native mammals

The report, conducted by scientists at Charles Darwin University in Australia and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has concluded that no other country has suffered such an extraordinary rate of land mammal extinction over this time period, with the results far worse than anticipated.

Since European colonisation in 1788, 11 per cent of 273 native land mammals have become extinct, 21 per cent are threatened and 15 per cent are near threatened, leading conservationists to proclaim it as an ‘extinction calamity’. The decline has been attributed to predation by non-native species such as the feral cat and red fox, which were introduced from Europe and are now estimated at between 15 and 23 million in number on the continent, as well as the effects of using large-scale fires as a method of managing land.

Conservation biologist John Woinarski, who led the research, spoke to Australian SBS news and urged people to take heed, stating ‘A further 56 Australian land mammals are now threatened, indicating that this extremely high rate of biodiversity loss is likely to continue unless substantial changes are made. The extent of the problem has been largely unappreciated until recently because much of the loss involves small, nocturnal, shy species with [little] public profile – few Australians know of these species, let alone have seen them, so their loss has been largely unappreciated by the community.’

Methods for reversing this decline are currently being considered – with practical measures including setting up land mammal ‘arks’ by boosting biosecurity on lands off the mainland, which have fewer feral cats and foxes. Similar methods were used in the relocation of Tasmanian devils to Maria Island, also done to protect the species from introduced predators.

More careful use of fire and control measures to wipe out foxes and feral cats are also being mooted, although careful consideration is being given at ways to avoid the risk of some native species being affected by these measures.

While doubtless a step in the right direction, Woinarski warns that these measures will mean little without increased public awareness and consideration in the way they live on the land. ‘We can learn more about these species. One of the problems is that most Australians don’t know what a bilby, or a dalgyte is.’

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Wildlife

A look at the contribution of hippos to the savannah…

Wildlife

The new app encourages young children to connect with the…

Energy

A type of panel has been invented that can generate…

Tectonics

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle proposed that earthquakes were…

Climate

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management pledges to achieve net…

Tectonics

Earthquakes from time immemorial have attracted the attention of the…

Tectonics

A planned kayaking expedition in Nepal took on a whole…

Tectonics

Scientists from Bristol University are working in conjunction with EDF…

Tectonics

In the 1930s, Charles Richter developed a simple scale for…

Tectonics

Researchers at Colombia University have answered a question that has…

Tectonics

How prepared can any government or city be against a…

Tectonics

Benjamin Hennig creates a series of cartograms to demonstrate the…

Wildlife

Could grey seals singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star help develop…

Climate

Deep sea expert Dr Alex Rogers explains the importance of…

Oceans

Analysis of coral cores, extracted from coral reefs in the…

Wildlife

Celebrities and animal welfare groups have been expressing their disappointment…

Geophoto

In a series of photographs from his recent trip to…