Category Archives: australia

Development threatening endangered cockatoo


The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says better town planning is needed to maintain the habitat of the carnaby’s black cockatoo so that it does not become extinct.

The birds are found in the south-west of Western Australia, and the fund says numbers have fallen by more than 50 per cent in the past 45 years.

It blames the rising development in the area which is destroying the birds’ habitat.

The carnaby’s black cockatoo is listed as endangered by the Federal Government

Michael Roache from WWF says plants in the birds’ habitat need to be replanted.

“We don’t necessarily place the true value on environmental services or indeed habitat for biodiversity. In south-west WA we have so many threatened species because of those threats of development,” he said.

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‘Roos ‘on the brink of extinction’


FOUR wildlife groups are calling for a moratorium on the killing of kangaroos, claiming they are on the brink of extinction in three states.

The Australian Society for Kangaroos, the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia, the Kangaroo Protection Coalition and Kangaroo Defenders are calling for a moratorium on the commercial and non-commercial slaughter of the iconic Australian animal.

They claim five kangaroo species are at dangerously low levels in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland.

Their claims are based on a report written for the Australian Society for Kangaroos, which suggests that falling numbers are a result of the drought and unsustainable kangaroo meat and leather industries.

The groups said the report found that there are less than five kangaroos per square kilometre across most of NSW, South Australia and Queensland, a number defined previously as being akin to “quasi extinction”.

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Climate change risk for endangered animals


A major study of ancient DNA has produced a grim outlook for endangered animals as a result of climate change.

Adelaide-based scientist Professor Alan Cooper is the head of the Australian Ancient DNA Centre, and will present his findings to the University of Adelaide today.

He says the study has helped identify the process and consequences of extinction.

Professor Cooper says his research conducted on bisons, mammoths and sabre-tooth cats produced worrying evidence suggesting climate change tens of thousands of years ago was largely responsible for their extinction.

“Our current idea is that humans were the cause of all the megafauna extinctions, is things like large mammoths and lions and ground-sloths, well humans might have killed the last members, but it looks climate change is the thing that did all the damage in the first place,” he said.

Africa threat

Professor Cooper says many scientists already fear that large animals in Africa such as great apes, elephants and rhinoceroses will be extinct within 20 or 30 years.

He says he hopes his study brings about more awareness of the aftermath of climate change.

“What I really want to do is use that sort of research to identify what happens in the process of extinction,” he said.

“What are the signs, so we can start measuring what we’ve got around us today and try to determine what’s at greatest risk of being extinct and in particular what the consequences of that are.”

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One tiny hop from extinction

 James Woodford – Sydney Morning Herald

NSW was down to one male spotted tree frog. Now they’re back, writes James Woodford.

IN THE middle of a wilderness, in the middle of the night, we are searching for frogs’ eyes.

It is pitch black and we are up to our shins in the frigid waters of Bogong Creek in Kosciuszko National Park at an altitude of 1100 metres.

Amid the splashing of rapids Dr Dave Hunter, a threatened species officer with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, and Mike McFadden, a herpetologist at Taronga Zoo, are looking for sparkles the size of dewdrops. From the thick, tall forest of alpine ash beside the creek there is the call of an endangered yellow-bellied glider. Conversation is hard above the constant rush of water over boulders, following a summer of good rain.

Caught by the glow of our torches, a native fish called mountain galaxids can be seen swimming around crystal-clear pools. “An abundance of mountain galaxids indicates an absence of trout,” Hunter says.

Trout are an enemy of frogs and native fish. The fact that the exotic fish – known to many scientists as foxes of the water – are not here is what helps to make Bogong Creek such a special place.

The rocks in the waterway are slippery and wild undergrowth makes the banks impenetrable.

“I’ve got one,” says McFadden.

It is amazing that Hunter and McFadden saw these two pinpoints of light reflected in their small spotlights and even more incredible that they are there at all.

The pinpoints are the eyes of a spotted tree frog, perhaps the most endangered animal in New South Wales. Just a decade ago the species was represented in this creek by a lone male – the last survivor of an amphibian apocalypse. So dire were the prospects of the spotted tree frog in Bogong Creek that in 1998 the decision was taken to catch the last male and bring him into captivity at the Amphibian Research Centre near Melbourne, under the care of the centre’s director, Gerry Marantelli. There the frog was mated with captured females from an endangered Victorian population at Wheeler Creek.

In spite of the desperate situation of that last male he was given the nickname Dirk Diggler, after the mythical porn star. Instead of Roller Girl, Dirk’s partners are known as the Wheeler Girls.

Luckily both parties have lived up to their names.

“Dirk has got a lot to be proud of,” McFadden says.

In the last two years the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Amphibian Research Centre in Melbourne have been able to release 600 of Dirk’s offspring as year-old frogs.

Tonight, Hunter and McFadden are doing a survey along 300 metres of Bogong Creek to determine how well these young frogs are faring. In the last year 150 of these young captive-reared frogs have been accounted for by the team’s surveys.

Every few weeks over summer a party walks up the exact same stretch, following the same survey methods. The work is far removed from simply emptying a bucket of tadpoles back into Bogong Creek – strict protocols have been written and everything is done according to rigorous scientific rules.

Spotted tree frogs were discovered by accident in NSW in 1973 when Dr Hal Cogger, of the Australian Museum, stopped his car by Bogong Creek and found them basking in the sun. At that time the area was thick with the amphibians and catching them was easy.

Among herpetologists the find was a sensation and studies of the population were undertaken. But almost as soon as monitoring was started, the frog population declined disastrously. Scientists started to find sick and dying frogs but no one knew the cause of the catastrophe.

Hunter says it now seems almost certain that a fungus called chytrid is killing and infecting frogs worldwide. It is also now thought that humans may play a part in the spread of the pathogen. The population collapse is of particular concern to Hunter as he was part of those early surveys when he was an undergraduate.

HUNTER points to where he and McFadden have found the spotted tree frog. The creature is on a steep, downstream face of a boulder. But I cannot see anything.

The frogs are well camouflaged and amid the chaos of the wilderness stream the only way of finding them at night is by catching their reflected eyeshine. We move closer and it is not until the frog is almost close enough to touch that its body becomes visible.

Hunter gloves up to make sure there is no risk of spreading any kind of infection. He catches it and stretches out its toes. Because these captive-reared frogs are virtually identical to each other, scientists clip their toe joints so they can follow the life history of each released animal. The absence of a digit on the frog’s feet correlates to a code which allows each specimen to be numbered.

“He is individual 1088,” Hunter says. “He was released as a year-old animal in January ’07. Now we are going to process him.”

Frog 1088 weighs in at a wispy 4.18 grams and is measured before his toes, fingers, armpits and groin are swabbed. The swab sample will be sent to the CSIRO Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong to determine if he is infected with the chytrid fungus.

Releasing such precious captive-reared frogs back into Bogong Creek is a big gamble but one the scientists feel they have to take. Hunter’s team hopes that the frogs can build up some sort of resistance to the fungus, which will mean that their chance of survival is much better in the long term.

Their fear is that sending captive-bred frogs into the wild is like ordering soldiers out of a trench in front of an enemy machine gun post.

For endangered amphibians the captive breeding is just the first challenge. Sometimes very large aquarium populations can be established quickly. And that seems to be the case with the spotted tree frogs. A captive-breeding program, however, can only buy time. Eventually a species has to go out and face the worst Mother Nature can throw at it.

The spotted tree frog project is one of the few in the world where the early results have been so promising, Hunter says. “We are excited about this project because, so far, it has worked.”

By the end of the evening Hunter and McFadden have found eight young frogs. It is nearly 11 pm by the time the scientists reach the end of the survey. As we clamber up the bank and onto the first clear, level land we have seen since dusk, McFadden says: “You have just seen a species that was extinct in NSW.”

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Australian animals threatened by climate change: report


SYDNEY (AFP) — Native Australian animals are at increased risk of extinction due to climate change, according to a report released Tuesday which found invasive species could benefit from rising temperatures.

Species at risk from higher temperatures and lower rainfall include the kangaroo-like rock wallaby, the rabbit-eared bilby and the quoll, a native cat, the report by environmental group WWF Australia said.

These animals are already battling bushfires, loss of habitat and introduced predators such as the cane toad and the European fox — threats which are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, it said.

“The early signs are that climate change is likely to make all of the existing threats to species worse,” it said.

“As humans respond to changes in climate, agricultural expansion into parts of Australia, such as the northern savannahs, that are predicted to have more rainfall, will mean old threats to species in new places.”

The report said weeds and pests were able to colonise new habitats quickly and even favoured changing conditions.

“The threat posed by invasive species could increase with climate change,” it said. “Pests such as the cane toad will thrive in warmer conditions and move into new areas.”

WWF spokeswoman Tammie Matson said the country already has the worst rate of mammal extinction in the world, with close to 40 percent of global mammal extinctions in the last 200 years.


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Toads ‘could wipe out’ endangered marsupial

 ABC (Australia) News

Wildlife conservationists are warning the endangered quoll population in New South Wales could be wiped out because of cane toads migrating from Queensland.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says warmer temperatures due to climate change are causing the toads to move south.

They say predators of the toad can die from eating the poisonous species and could be made extinct.

The fund’s threatened species coordinator, Dr Mina Bassarova, says the spotted-tail quoll is particularly at risk because populations of the marsupial are so small.

“We know that the western quoll and the northern quoll are both killed from poisoning when they eat the cane toads, so it’s considered likely that the spotted-tail quoll, which is found in NSW, would also be susceptible to the poison of the cane toads.”

Dr Mina Bassarova says it is hard to predict how far toads could spread into NSW,\ but an increase in nature reserve systems could protect the quoll and other endangered animals.

Dr Tammie Matson, also from the WWF, says other species are also at risk.

“Australia already has the worst rate of mammal extinction in the world. A lot of our kangaroo and wallaby species are already facing extinction,” she said.

“We’ve lost several species already, they’re already extinct. What climate change will mean for these species is that their core climatic range may disappear entirely.”

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Australians worst nation on Earth at preserving wildlife

 KathyMarks – New Zealand Herald

SYDNEY – Australians love their wildlife – after all, who could fail to warm to a koala, or a wombat, or a kangaroo? But few Australians know that they have the worst record on the planet for conserving their beautiful and unusual animals.

Of all the mammal species that have become extinct in the past 200 years, nearly half are Australian.

Since the British arrived, 27 mammals – about 10 per cent of the total – have disappeared.

These are statistics that “embarrass many conservationists, myself included”, says Tammie Matson, head of the species programme at WWF Australia.

The precarious state of much of Australia’s surviving wildlife is of even greater concern, and in Darwin last week Dr Matson launched a project aimed at raising awareness of the problems facing endangered species such as the karak.

The Flagship Species Programme will focus on 10 endangered creatures that embody the threats facing those inhabiting similar environments.

They include the snubfish dolphin, which was only discovered in 2005; the brush-tailed rock wallaby, an athletic creature that can scale almost vertical outcrops; the northern quoll, a small, spotted marsupial; and the brilliantly hued Gouldian finch, also known as the painted or rainbow finch.

There are several reasons why such creatures are at risk, and why Australia has already suffered such a high rate of extinctions.

Land clearing, with the resulting habitat destruction, is one.

A change in fire regimes – from the patchy, selective burnings carried out by Aborigines to today’s devastating bushfires – is another.

But by far the most harm has been wrought by the introduction of exotic predators, namely feral cats and foxes, according to Chris Johnson, a professor specialising in marsupial biology at Queensland’s James Cook University.

Their impact has been compounded by the culling of dingoes, which would otherwise have kept cat and fox numbers down.

Dingoes, which are thought to have first arrived in Australia at around 3000BC, had replaced larger predators, particularly the extinct thylacine, or Tasman tiger, on the mainland, said Professor Johnson.

But in sheep-farming areas, dingoes had been virtually eliminated.

“We should be rethinking the dingo’s ecological role,” he added.

Species already lost include the lesser bilby, a delicate marsupial that burrowed in desert sand dunes; it was only discovered in the late 1800s, and 50 years later was extinct.

The pig-footed bandicoot was tiny, with long legs, and paws that resembled hooves, or pigs’ trotters.

Early accounts say it looked like a miniature horse.

“There’s nothing like it living today,” said Professor Johnson.

Dr Matson, a zoologist, points out that most Australian species are unique to the continent, so when one vanishes, the loss is felt globally.

She has just returned from a decade working in Africa and says Australia could learn much from the poorer continent.

“We’re very good at a lot of things, including sport,” she said.

“But we’re also very good at killing our mammals. We’re not shooting them out [of existance] anymore, but we’re having the same effect by removing their habitat.”


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