Koala release in Emmaville NSW © WWF-Aus / Adam Krowitz

Koala release in Emmaville NSW © WWF-Aus / Adam Krowitz

How do we undo Australia’s extinction crisis? The answer may be revealed in a new analysis.

21 Sep 2022

Keywords
  • biodiversity
  • climate change
  • koalas
  • threatened species
  • tree-clearing

Australians are realising the dire state of the environment. The increasing destruction of unique species paves the way for a huge threat to us and our native animals, plants and fungi. Coupled with the looming and catastrophic threat of climate change, the two crises have huge potential to change life as we know it for the worse.

 

Australia is home to a diverse array of wonderful plants and animals, and even the smallest fungi are vital for the way of life we’ve come to love in this sunny country. But they’re under threat, and without them, it’s impossible to have clean water and nutrient-rich soils, which impacts the ecosystems on which we depend.

 

From a reliable food supply to sustaining life, all are at risk unless we work to undo our extinction crisis.

 

Yet despite knowing this, the headlines seem to be worsening day by day. In February 2022, koalas were officially declared Endangered on the east coast of Australia. Then in July, the greater glider followed suit and was also uplisted to Endangered. We’re seeing more and more of our unique wildlife being listed as threatened. The signs are there.

 

Koala and joey on log © Shutterstock / KAMONRAT / WWF

 

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We don’t want to lose the unusual animals in Australia, one of the only two countries in the world besides New Guinea that monotremes, egg-laying mammals, proudly call their home. But public media is overshadowed by doom and gloom, and that doesn’t set a hopeful tone for the future.

 

However, a new analysis has emerged that uses real-time data to showcase the power conservation interventions have. A group of scientists utilised data in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to assess what actions will be needed to reverse extinction. The results for us are eye-opening. The compiled data reveals that merely addressing habitat destruction is not enough to counter extinction for Australian species. For this country, active management and dedicated recovery actions are needed to prevent extinction of threatened native species including, the east coast koala, greater glider, and platypus.

 

For example, greater gliders were once abundant along the east coast. But in the last 20 years, their populations have decreased by as much as 80% due to climate change, bushfires, and logging.

 

East coast koalas too have gone from having no listing to Vulnerable to Endangered in just a decade. And while the silver lining for the Endangered listing is that there is now more awareness for their plight, so much more still needs to be done to avert an extinction for koalas.

 

Aerial of bushfire aftermath in Kangaroo Valley, NSW © WWF-Australia / Douglas Thron

 

The analysis presents a strong and data-driven case for why we need to do more to protect our native wildlife. Aside from restoring habitats, we need to have specific targeted strategies – including stopping habitat destruction, invasive species management, and implementing ecologically-appropriate fire regimes – for reversing extinction for individual species. If this is not done, other initiatives that we all work so hard to achieve, such as protecting important ecosystems and restoring degraded habitats, will not be enough to prevent an extinction crisis for many plants and animals.

 

While the news is grim, the bright side is that we have considerable data to inform our actions. It does mean we have more work to do, but this analysis helps us understand what is needed to Regenerate Australia and save our native wildlife.

 

This is a hopeful prospect for all of us who are doing everything in their power to help with species recovery – from Indigenous Peoples who have been taking care of Country and the animals for millennia to our federal, state and local governments to NGOs and corporates.

 

Together with the help of our incredible supporters and partners, WWF-Australia has been working tirelessly to Regenerate Australia by restoring habitats, campaigning for renewables and reversing the extinction crisis for native animals such as the koala - with the aim of doubling the east coast population by 2050.

 

Additionally, new technology and research, such as high-tech cameras to scientific studies that determine the impacts on our threatened species, have allowed us to increase our understanding of native animal species, enabling us to better protect them.

 

But what about the everyday person? The new technologies are great but getting involved can be confusing. Luckily, there’s technology available that allows everyone to help.

 

One such technology is WWF-Australia’s recently launched My Backyard tool, developed to help individuals learn about what threatened wildlife could call their backyard home and how the federal government is graded in their recovery efforts. The tool also provides a simple way for users to contact their local government representative to demand stronger action to protect wildlife and the places they call home.

 

The easy-to-use platform means that we are just one click away from discovering that, for instance, the Endangered greater glider lives in their local area, along with helpful information about threats they’re facing. This allows all of us to have the power to play a part in conserving the native wildlife we all hold so dear.

 

Just as we call Australia home, so do our animals and plants, and one essential thing to realise is; that we primarily drive extinction, but we also have the power to reverse it and protect our home. While the task is undoubtedly immense, understanding the data and coming together to provide a way for everyone to help increases our chances of saving our wildlife.

 

© WWF-Australia / Free Vreman

 

Despite the doom and gloom, all is not lost and together we can protect our home, the creatures that live here and reverse the extinction crisis.

 

Here’s more you can do to help protect our wildlife:

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