toggle menu

In photos:

In Photos: Threatened native Australian animals

11 Aug 2020


  • numbat
  • forests
  • koalas
  • threatened species
  • wallabies

Australia is home to some of the world’s most unique and iconic wildlife species. Some that many may never even have heard of before!

Sadly, our country also has one of the worst animal extinction records with over 54 species gone forever in the last two centuries.

Currently, there are 518 species listed as threatened on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act 1999 - Australia’s flagship nature laws. Since the act came into place 20 years ago, over 7.7 million hectares of threatened species habitat was destroyed without authorisation, leaving wildlife with nowhere to go.

Devastatingly, a further 12.6 million hectares of forest and woodlands was scorched by the catastrophic 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, impacting nearly 3 billion native animals and pushing many more of our threatened species towards extinction.

Right now, the Australian Government is undergoing a once-in-10-year review of the EPBC Act - giving us an opportunity to advocate for stronger nature laws and an independent regulatory agency so that we don’t risk losing any more of our precious wildlife. You can have your say now.


Take a look at some of the native wildlife found only in Australia that are in desperate need of protection now more than ever.

Greater glider in a patch of old growth forest in Munruben, Logan City, south of Brisbane © Josh Bowell
Status: Vulnerable

The greater glider (Petauroides volans) is a nocturnal marsupial that can glide between trees from distances of up to 100 metres. This solitary species was once found throughout the eucalypt forests of eastern Australia, dining exclusively on eucalyptus leaves, buds and flowers.

Sadly, their forest habitat is diminishing. In Queensland and NSW alone, 29% of their habitat burned last summer, and rates of bulldozing or logging of their forest habitats has actually increased since they were listed as Vulnerable to extinction in 2016 under national law.

Critically endangered regent honeyeater on a branch, Quorrobolong NSW © Mick Roderick / BirdLife Australia
Status: Critically Endangered

The regent honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia) is a woodland bird with striking yellow and black plumage. It moves in flocks and feeds primarily on nectar from eucalyptus and mistletoe trees.

Their homes once ranged across eastern Australia along the Great Dividing Range and could be found as far west as Adelaide, South Australia and as far north as Rockhampton, Queensland. Unfortunately, populations in South Australia and Queensland are gone, and there are now only between 800-2000 of these striking birds left in the wild due to extensive clearing of their forest and woodland habitat.

Most of their key breeding sites were impacted by the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, pushing this critically endangered species ever closer to extinction. They are listed as critically endangered under national law.

A numbat emerges to start the day in the Dryandra Woodlands, Western Australia © John Lawson / WWF-Australia
Status: Endangered

The numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) is a small insectivore that can be found nesting in hollow logs, tree hollows and burrows. This termite-eating marsupial, also known as a banded anteater, uses its long sticky tongue to catch termites eating up to 20,000 termites a day!

They were once widely distributed across Western Australia, southern Australia and north-western New South Wales, but rampant destruction of their woodland habitat and predation by feral foxes and cats has pushed them to the brink of extinction.

It’s estimated there are less than 1,000 individuals left in the wild, and they can now only be found in two isolated pockets of southwest Australia - the remnant patches of land in the Dryandra Woodland (near Narrogin) and the Tone-Perup Nature Reserve (near Manjimup) in Western Australia.

Australian platypus in river © Shutterstock / Martin Pelanek / WWF
Status: Near Threatened

The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is one of Australia’s most iconic and recognisable animals. The first reported discovery was in 1798. when British scientists thought it was a hoax made by stitching together the parts of different animals. The platypus has webbed feet, a duck-like bill, lays eggs, and males have venomous spurs. This shy, semiaquatic duck-billed species can be found in eastern Australia and Tasmania and is one of only five species of monotremes (egg-laying mammals) left in existence (including four echidna species in PNG, one of which is also widespread in Australia).

Platypuses love to frolic in freshwater creeks, rivers and streams in a range of habitats, from tropical rainforests to alpine regions. However, prolonged droughts, a changing climate and landclearing have impacted platypus populations down to the point that experts now believe they should be listed as threatened.

Australia’s nature laws are currently undergoing a once-in-ten year review. Will you send a message to your local politician, asking for stronger laws and stronger compliance to protect our vulnerable wildlife?


Swift parrot perched on a branch © Dave Curtis / Flickr
Status: Critically Endangered

The colourful swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) has a high-pitched chattering call. Related to the rosella, they’re noisy, always active and showy, and are very fast with their direct flight. The swift parrot is also known as the red-faced or red-shouldered parrot.

They only breed in Tasmania and migrate to the Australian mainland, flying across Bass Strait. You can find them foraging in ironbark forests and eucalypts to feed on nectar.

Researchers estimate that there are fewer than 2,000 swift parrots left in the wild and they are on a trajectory towards extinction by 2031 due to predation, loss of habitat and climate change affecting breeding habitat and patterns of flowering. They are listed as critically endangered under national law.

Black-flanked rock-wallaby in the central Wheatbelt, Western Australia © Craig Pentland
Status: Endangered

Small, elusive and extremely agile. The black-flanked rock-wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) is a nocturnal marsupial that can be found bouncing among rocky outcrops in Western Australia.
Also known as the black-footed rock-wallaby or warru, this little mountaineer has textured pads on its hind feet, which act like the soles of a running shoe, enabling it to bound around rock piles, cliffs, and caves.

They were once widespread across the central ranges of Australia, but habitat destruction and predation by feral predators has resulted in their population decline and caused many local extinctions. They are listed as endangered under national law.

Kangaroo Island dunnart © Peter Hammond
Status: Endangered

The Kangaroo Island dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni) is a dark sooty-grey, mouse-sized nocturnal marsupial with a tail longer than its body!

It’s estimated that there were around 500 dunnarts on Kangaroo Island before the 2019-20 bushfires. However, the fires destroyed 95% of its habitat on the island, prompting fears for the survival of the species. While it’s still not known how many dunnarts perished, it’s estimated there could be as few as 50 individuals remaining. They are listed as endangered under national law.

Thanks to our supporters, WWF-Australia was able to fund Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife to help monitor and protect the Kangaroo Island dunnart following the fires. A few months later, new sensor cameras captured images of dunnarts at a bushfire-ravaged site, giving hope to conservationists for the survival of the species.

 Young koala perched in a tree at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary © Photo by Archie Carlson on Unsplash
Status: Vulnerable

What’s a list of native Australian animals without the most iconic of them all? The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). They’re tailless with a stout grey body, pale yellow or cream-coloured chest and mottling on the rump. Their pretty broad face, rounded, leathery nose and small yellow eyes are framed by big fluffy ears.

Koalas were the face of suffering wildlife during the devastating Australian bushfires. Footage of our beloved tree-dwelling marsupials trying to escape the flames was shared across the world and people watched in horror. The sad fact is that even before the megafires, koalas were already on a downhill trajectory. Excessive clearing of vital eucalypt forests on the country’s east coast has destroyed and fragmented their habitat, leaving them with no place to call home.

Without urgent changes to our nature laws, Australia’s most iconic animal is on track to becoming extinct in NSW and Qld by 2050. The NSW, Qld and ACT populations were listed in 2012 as vulnerable to extinction under national law after 20 years of precipitous population loss.

Australia’s nature laws are currently undergoing a once-in-ten year review. Will you send a message to your local politician, asking for stronger laws and stronger compliance to protect our vulnerable wildlife?