THIS year’s “Red List of Threatened Species” features corals as endangered for the first time.The annual list of threatened species, produced by IUCN (the World Conservation Union), includes 16,306 species threatened with extinction.
Vice-President of IUCN, Greens Senator Christine Milne, said the inclusion of corals on this list, and specific reference to climate change as a threat to their survival, should serve as a wake up call to all Australians.
“The direct threat to the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef, which hold special places in our hearts, should be a wake up call to Australians that the global extinction crisis will hit our country hard,” she said.
Australia holds particularly large numbers of threatened species, with 2027 animals listed as under threat, including 38 extinct species, and 61critically endangered. A further 507 are endangered or vulnerable. And a total of 171 plants are under threat.
Worldwide, one in four mammals, one in eight birds, and one third of all amphibians and 70 per cent of the world’s assessed plants are in jeopardy.
“Ninety nine per cent of threatened species are at risk due to human activities. We are causing this crisis and we are the ones who can stop it. But it is clear that, despite growing concern and the existing local, regional and global work to save biodiversity, far more concerted action is needed if we are to stem the loss of species around the globe,” said Senator Milne.
In Canberra, habitat destruction is threatening a number of endangered plants and animals. The proposal to develop parts of the Molongolo Valley for housing may destroy 600 hectares of Yellow Box Woodland and take with it the hunting grounds for myriad animals, many of them threatened, rare or regionally declining species, including the Diamond Firetail, the Crested Flame Robin and the Little Eagle.
The valley links to the open lands and woodland corridors to the west and south of Canberra, as well as to the larger Murrumbidgee River corridor, and on into the rural Naas Valley and the Brindabella Ranges. These corridors provide vital connectivity for migrating birds and other animals, and for fish spawning upstream. The riverine areas also provide an important winter refuge for birds and animals from the more exposed, open treeless grasslands and grassy woodlands.
Trish Harrup, director of the Conservation Council, explains that the mosaic mix of the different habitats also allows a unique range of birds of prey to occur very close to a major city.
Sub-coastal south-east Australia has less than 10 per cent of its original woodlands left. In the ACT, we have more left than most, and their proximity to our city means we also have more opportunity than many Australians to connect with our natural environment.
Ms Harrup believes that as Australia’s bush capital we have a responsibility to uphold Australia’s heritage.
“Many people in Canberra know what a treasure we have there, but some do not. I’d advise them to go and see for themselves,” she said.
She also suggested contacting the Minister for Planning or the Conservation Council to protest the area of the development that would encroach upon these lands.
Greens MP for Molongolo Dr Deb Foskey recently called for a statue of the Grassland Earless Dragon on Northbourne Avenue, as a reminder of another threatened species. The lizard, which is only found in the ACT, has only two habitat areas left. A portion of one of these areas, in Symonston, is being handed over to a property developer in a land swap for the Narrabundah Long Stay Park.
Dr Foskey said: “The statue will either mourn a lost species or celebrate our ability to care for the grasslands this unique creature lives in.”
Preferably the latter, because, as Senator Milne points out, extinction and localised loss of species is not simply about the tragedy of that loss.
“Loss of biodiversity has a tremendous impact on our human societies that we cannot ignore,” she said.