In the lead up to Australia’s National Threatened Species Day on 7 September we’re celebrating the diversity of life that can be found all over our amazing country.
Australia has a high percentage of endemic species (meaning, they occur nowhere else in the world). More than 80% of our flowering plants and land mammals are endemic, as are 88% of our reptiles, 45% of our birds and 92% of our frogs.
But our unique biodiversity is in decline. Right now, more than 1,700 species and ecological communities are known to be threatened and at risk of extinction.
Threatened Species Day reminds us of all the native plants, animals, and ecosystems that are under threat and reflect on how we can protect them into the future.
Before European settlement, woylies (Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi) were found across much of mainland Australia. Introduced predators – foxes and cats – and habitat destruction led to their extinction from most of their former range.
Today they exist only in two remnant populations in Western Australia and a handful of re-introduced colonies in WA, SA and NSW.
The western swamp tortoise (Pseudemydura umbrina) is Australia’s rarest reptile. The species is one of our rarest reptiles and listed as Critically Endangered by international, national and state authorities. WWF and partners recently helped secure additional protected habitat for this critically endangered tortoise some extra room to move and increase in number.
In May 2016, the status of the swift parrots was sadly moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered. The Australian Government has now prioritised resource allocation to support the species recovery effort for this vibrant bird.
The koala is a well-known and popular species, found only in Australia but recognised around the world.
A recent report prepared for WWF-Australia by Dr Christine Adams-Hosking, shows that koalas are declining throughout Queensland with the destruction of trees forcing koalas into increasingly fragmented pockets of habitat.
Corroboree frogs weigh up to just 3 grams, but play a big part in the alpine ecosystems they call home. Even as tadpoles they act as filter feeders to remove algae from ponds, which keeps the water clean and clear and benefits other aquatic plants and animals. Taronga is heavily involved in breeding and release of the critically endangered corroboree frogs into the wild in a National Recovery Program to help save this species
Learn more: https://taronga.org.au/animal/corroboree-frog
Australia has about 18,000 species of flowering plants, many of which occur nowhere else in the world. The southwest of Western Australia is a floristically rich area.
These stunning salmon gums are endemic to the central and eastern Avon Wheatbelt. The Australian Government has listed 15 national biodiversity hotspots around the country such as this one.
Foxes and feral cats are among the most destructive introduced species and are a huge threat to Australia's biodiversity. Cats have been recorded to eat or kill over 400 vertebrate species in Australia and, together with foxes, they have played a major role in the decline of many native animals.
Learn more about introduced predators.
For a number of once widespread species, Australian habitats offer their best chance of survival. It is believed that most of the world's dugong population lives in Australian waters. Find out just how special dugongs are and the threats they’re facing: read more.
There are many things that individuals can do to help conserve our unique biological diversity. For example, marine turtles are now listed as either Endangered or Vulnerable because of increasing pressures and threats primarily from human activity.
Learn more about marine turtles like the hawksbill and the threats they’re facing.