Issue 3
Monday, 30 April 2018
Charles Darwin University
Leadbeater's Possum Photo: D Lindenmayer and M Greer
Leadbeater's Possum Photo: D Lindenmayer and M Greer

Australian mammals and birds at risk

Ten Australian birds and seven mammals are likely to become extinct over the next 20 years, if current management continues, according to new research.

Deputy Director of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub Professor John Woinarski said most of these extinctions could be prevented if conservation managers and the community were more aware of the risk these species faced, and managers were able to respond effectively and rapidly.

“Identifying the species at greatest risk of extinction is a crucial first step in avoiding their extinctions,” Professor Woinarski from Charles Darwin University said.

“The fate of these species depends upon support from governments and communities, and public interest, awareness and involvement.

“Some of our other recent research has compiled case studies of successful conservation for almost 50 Australian threatened species, so we know it can be done when the commitment is there.”

CDU researcher Hayley Geyle co-ordinated the new research which draws together many types of evidence, including assessments by about 30 independent experts. 

The results identify the birds and mammals at greatest risk of extinction and also provide an estimate of their likelihood of extinction within the next 20 years if there is no increase in management effort or effectiveness.   

“The most at-risk Australian bird is the tiny King Island brown thornbill, which – under its current low level of conservation care – has little more than a five per cent chance of surviving the next 20 years,” Ms Geyle said.

“Ten birds have a 50-50 or greater chance of becoming extinct, including the orange-bellied parrot, western ground parrot, plains-wanderer, regent honeyeater and herald petrel.

“Most at-risk birds are on islands or in the more intensely developed parts of southern Australia.”

She said the central rock-rat was the most at-risk mammal with an estimated 65 per cent likelihood of becoming extinct in the next 20 years. 

“For the northern hopping-mouse the risk is about 50-50. For Perth’s western ringtail possum the risk is one in four,” she said.

“The mammals at risk are spread widely, but many occur in northern Australia, an area currently witnessing a rapid and severe decline in mammals generally.

“To avoid extinction each species will require individual targeted action, investment and collaboration among governments, non-government organisations and the private sector to mitigate threats and support recovery.” 

The research has been published in the scientific journal Pacific Conservation Biology.

The Threatened Species Recovery Hub is a partnership of 10 Australian universities and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to undertake research to recover threatened species. It receives funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program.