Category Archives: Threatened species

Magpies, kookaburras and willie wagtails among common Australian birds ‘starting to disappear’,

Magpies, laughing kookaburras and willie wagtails are on the decline in some regions, a report tracking the health of Australia’s bird populations has found.  Birdlife Australia, analysed data collected in more than 400,000 surveys across the country, the majority done by bird-loving volunteers.  The State of Australia’s Birds Report states that while predators including cats, habitat loss and even changes in climate might be to blame, more research was needed before certain species became endangered.  Habitat loss and changes are polite euphemisms for human destruction, such as land clearing and degradation for mining, logging, industries and urbanization!

(image: “Poser (543749091)” by aussiegall from Sydney, Australia – PoserUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Sightings of kookaburras have decreased at a rate of 40 per cent across south-eastern Australia. Magpies have declined significantly on the east coast, a new report shows. The Eastern curlew, a migratory shorebird that has recently been declared critically endangered.

Editor of Australian Birdlife Sean Dooley said the decline of common birds in parts of Australia was a surprise to researchers.

Numbats, malas, bandicoots and bettongs are among the mammals the Federal Government’s identified in its new Threatened Species Strategy. The birds include the mallee emu-wren and Norfolk Island boobook owl.

The Environment Minister Greg Hunt says feral cats are a serious threat to native species and that he wants the feral animals eradicated from five islands and 10 mainland enclosures within five years. Hunt has also set a target of 10 new cat-free enclosures on mainland Australia by 2020.

Dr Euan Ritchie is with Deakin University. He wants native predators like dingoes and Tasmanian devils reintroduced, as a natural way of culling foxes and cats. This is an enlightened approach to the status of Dingoes that have been vilified and trapped over decades as a threat to livestock! He also wants Tasmanian devils back to the mainland.

Ms Jane Nathan says in The Age 16 July 2015 that Melbourne is headed for eight million by 2050, and goes on to describe what it will be like in the most wildly optimistic tones imaginable. She says “our social harmony, kaleidoscopic culture, clean food, innovative education systems and greatly reduced crime rates are the envy of the world. Our neighbourhoods are artistic, green and pristine”.

According to MP Kelvin Thomson, in the Federal seat of Wills, it “Sounds like paradise. The problem is, there is no evidence to support it…And as for green and pristine, just this week it was reported that even common Australian birds, like the Willy Wagtail and the Kookaburra, were being sighted much less frequently. The reason for this is that the streets of mature gardens that used to give our birds food and shelter have been replaced by multi-unit developments and high rise. The vegetation has been destroyed, and the birds have died out”.

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Major plan launched to avert species extinction

The country’s flora and fauna draws millions of tourists from around the world. But scientists say Australia’s native species are under threat of extinction.

20 per cent of mammals and many more plant species are under threat. And scientists fear much of the country’s unique flora and fauna may not be around for future generations. Habitat loss, hunting and changes in fire regimes have contributed to the decline, with invasive species considered a primary ongoing threat.

A major bush conservation plan has been launched to help save native animals and plants under threat of extinction.

For example, Queensland School of Agriculture and Food Sciences Ecology Lecturer and PhD candidate Rebecca Diete said population estimates of some of Australia’s most elusive native animals often relied on indirect and potentially inaccurate measures. A tiny mammal, the endangered hopping mouse, could be closer to the brink of extinction than previously thought. Diete found that population estimates have relied on counting spoil heaps – the piles of sand left behind when the mouse digs burrows. However, she discovered that some spoil heaps believed to belong to the northern hopping mouse were made by a different animal – the delicate mouse (Pseudomys delicatulus). “Estimates of hopping mouse numbers made only from spoil heap assessments could be much higher than the reality,” she said.

Bush Heritage Science Plan

Since 1991, Bush Heritage Australia has applied a proven, practical approach to conserving Australia’s environment and unique plants and animals. One in five of Australia’s surviving mammals and 12% of Australia’s birds are now threatened with extinction. There remains an estimated shortfall of 70 million hectares of habitat across Australia (WWF, 2013) to secure a comprehensive, adequate and representative national reserve system.

Download from Bush Heritage Australia website.

This alone will not be enough. BHA believe we also require more effective management in need of protection of the extensive and pervasive threats impacting the viability of native animals, plants and ecosystems.

This ten-year Science Plan aims to build sustainable research partnerships in each state and territory and double the number of collaborative research projects we undertake by 2025. Their research will be focused on six flagship research themes, each pivotal to our work, and which address key biodiversity conservation issues in Australia.

African lovegrass is a weed which dominates the heavily cultivated soils of Scottsdale Reserve, a former grazing property 75 kilometres south of Canberra. Few trees have survived decades of farming. Instead it’s the introduced thistles with their dried, discoloured flowers which stand tall.

In some countries African lovegrass is regarded as valuable for animal production and soil conservation but in others, such as Australia, it is regarded as a weed due to its low feed quality and acceptance by livestock.

Bush Heritage Australia started rehabilitating the land after purchasing the 1328-hectare property in 2006. Scottsdale Reserve was the launch site (8th April, 2015) for an ambitious project to study the reasons behind Australia’s massive rate of biodiversity loss. Australian National University ecologist Dr David Freudenberger is among 50 scientists collaborating on the project. “Scottsdale Reserve is a living classroom for my students, at understanding the challenges of restoring the grassy woodland,” he said.

The existing long-term research project on Scottsdale Reserve involves restoring grassy eucalypt woodlands. They engaged 500 volunteers, who hand-planted native shrubs and trees in one of the largest woodland restoration efforts in the nation.

scottsdale-planting(image:Scottsdale Reserve planting)

Dr Jim Radford, science and research manager at Bush Heritage Australia said native mammals, such as bilbies, bettongs, bandicoots and gliders, are in an “absolutely dire” situation. One key priority is adding up to 70 million extra hectares to Australia’s national parks and reserve system.

Rufus_bettong(image: Rufus Bettong)

Research Themes

Research theme 1: Landscape connectivity

Research theme 2: Threatened species

Research theme 3: Habitat refugia

Research theme 4: Fire ecology

Research theme 5: Restoration evaluation

Research theme 6: Introduced species/feral animals

The Bush Heritage Science Plan aims to double their science and research output by 2025 through building sustainable long-term research partnerships and doubling the number of collaborative research projects they undertake. Funding will be through scholarships, grants and internships. As part of the plan, 50 scientists from 15 universities across the country will collaborate on 55 conservation projects, and they hope to raise $20 million to fund it.

$20 million in Treasury terms is very small, and is minute compared to infrastructure spending on our own habitats, and what’s spent to propagate our own species! Donating and participating in this Science Plan is an investment into our natural heritage, and ensure that future generations are condemned to only seeing once common native species in museums, or in zoos!

Donate to Bush Heritage Australia:

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Media Release: Land Clearing wrecking our environment

Environment Minister Greg Hunt

Dear Greg

This week media reports have detailed the Federal Government’s approval for significant clearing of Critically Endangered woodlands in the Hunter Valley and lack of oversight on potentially illegal broad-scale clearing in Cape York, permitted by the former Queensland Government in direct contravention of national environment law.

The Federal Environment Department has just given mining company Coal and Allied the green light to clear 535 hectares of White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland, a Critically Endangered ecological community listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The community has been recognised as Critically Endangered since 2006, primarily due to a decline in geographic distribution, and since that time numerous developments have chipped away at what remains. Permitting a further 535 vital hectares to be cleared for a single project indicates the Government is loath to use its habitat protection powers effectively.

This is a unique and incredibly important ecosystem that has been absolutely smashed by development. More than 93% of the woodlands have been cleared since European settlement, yet the Commonwealth has justified the destruction of a further 535 hectares by requiring a biodiversity offset management plan and vegetation clearance protocols – simply inappropriate measures for Critically Endangered habitats,” said Humane Society International.

Similarly bad news has surfaced in Cape York, where clearing of 33,000 hectares of habitat for the buff-breasted button-quail (the only known Australian bird to have never been photographed in the wild) and at least 17 other threatened species listed under the EPBC Act was permitted in the dying days of the former Queensland Government.



The EPBC Act is not meant to be used in this farcical way – Maryland Wilson Australian Wildlife Protection Council Inc.

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Orange-Bellied parrots – disease threat

The Federal Government is attempting to speed up action over a fatal disease in Australia’s most critically endangered wild bird, the orange-bellied parrot. The Beak and Feather Disease virus is known to be present in common species, ­including sulphur-crested cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets.

Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said he wanted to boost the parrot’s captive population as part of an urgent response to an outbreak of beak and feather disease. “This bird is right on the edge of an extinction precipice in the wild,” Mr Andrews said. With such few numbers struggling against “developments” and environmental destruction, any disease could destroy their stronghold on existence.

The threatened species breeds in Tasmania’s Southwest National Park and the birds migrate to Victoria and South Australia every winter. A captive breeding program for the orange-bellied parrot has been in place since 1986. It’s a real Aussie battler!

Around 64 wild parrots flew out of their single Tasmanian breeding colony this autumn for Victorian coastal wintering grounds. 27 were captive bred and released to the wild. The young are listless and shedding feathers. With such small numbers, fewer than 70 in the wild, there’s no room for disease, neglect or complacency. Such small number don’t encourage genetic diversity, or robustness in the species.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has urged the government to reconsider plans to allow logging and mining in the 1.5 million hectare area. Tasmania has some of the tallest forests in the world … big jagged mountains, tall eucalyptus forests, some very unique species like the orange bellied parrot,” Bob Brown Foundation spokeswoman Jenny Weber said.

The food plants that they rely on—plants that—provide seed on an annual basis rely on high salt tolerance. Their odd adaptations have contributed to their current predicament because their large geographical range and specific habitat needs make them harder to legislate for. Coastal salt marsh generally has been looked upon as a wasteland, prime for development for things like petro-chemical plants, even housing, marinas, that sort of thing. The sort of habitat that they live in is so close to the coast that it is highly desirable for development. So, the greatest threat to Orange-bellied parrots is human encroachment and destruction of the specific habitats, what we call “developments”!

Dr Stojanovic from the Australian National University’s Fenner School of Environment and Society said he felt for the many scientists who had invested so much of their time and emotion into saving the species. He says that there’s a tendency to say ‘it’s too hard, let’s put our resources where there is more bang for buck’, but I don’t think we can put our hands on our hearts and say we have put serious money into this. We haven’t done everything we can.

Carpenter Rocks saving Orange Bellied parrot
(Sign at Carpenter Rocks, South Australia 2015)
There is a call for a boost in breeding parrots in captivity as a response to the outbreak responsible for their decline.

Although we acknowledge that some extinctions are inevitable and part of the evolutionary process, we believe every creature has the right to a chance to survive, and not be eliminated by hostile economic activities and human encroachments.

Australia, famous for mammal extinctions, is also ramping up our world record to include native bird extinctions.

Petition: Provide more funding for the endangered Orange-bellied Parrots.

Facebook; Save the OBP

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Parrot feared extinct for 100 years is found in Australia

The elusive night parrot, a species thought to be extinct for about a century, has finally been captured and tagged in what has been hailed as a ‘holy grail’ moment.

The world’s most mysterious bird
was found by researchers on a remote and arid 56,000-hectare stretch of land in Queensland, Australia. Scientists say the bird was “very common” in the 1800s until the introduction of feral animals almost wiped it out.

The Night Parrot is a medium-sized parrot measuring 22 to 25 cm in length, with a wingspan of 44 to 46 cm. The adults are predominantly bright green in colour, but with black and yellow bars, spots and streaks over much of the body, bright yellow colouring on the belly and vent, and black colouring on the upper surfaces of the periphery of the wings and tail. In flight, a prominent bar, off-white to pale-yellow in colour, becomes visible on the underside of each wing (Higgins 1999).

For around 100 years it was presumed extinct. Incredibly, we now have a second chance to save it! It has defied it’s poor odds.

After combing the bush for 18 months, conservation group Bush Heritage Australia captured and tagged a bird in April.

They are now establishing a 56,000 hectare reserve at a secret location in Queensland’s west to keep the precious bird safe from feral cats and poachers.

Amazing, for a nation famous for threatening species and extinctions, that this parrot has survived!

Dr Steve Murphy, the world’s foremost expert on the night parrot, who played a key role in verifying the discovery of this population, has since their sighting in 2013 by naturalist and photographer John Young, been researching the species and how best to protect them.

“‘I’ve been fascinated with Night Parrots ever since I was a small kid,” said Dr Murphy. “It’s their story that grabbed me, and what it represented about what’s happened to Australia since the arrival of Europeans.

“We’ve lost more native animals than anywhere else on Earth, and for a lot of years we thought we’d lost this one as well.”

To give the bird a second chance, Bush Heriage are negotiating to purchase a 56,000 ha section of a pastoral property in western Queensland where the bird was found. The population size is estimated at between 30 and 100 individuals.

Read more: Night Parrot- Bush Heritage Australia

Facebook: Night Parrot stories

(featured image: Night owl, SA Museum)

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Petition: Protect our native waterbirds – Ban duck shooting!

Please help our native waterbirds by lobbying to put an end to this cruelty and ban recreational duck shooting once and for all.

US ballistics expert and duck shooter, Tom Roster, has shown that at least one in four birds targeted are not killed but wounded (this figure was recognised by Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment)

Shotguns spray hundreds of small pellets, resulting in ducks with fractured or broken legs, or legs shot off entirely, shattered bills, splintered wings, pellets through eyes and gunshot lodged in organs, muscles and tendons. This is grotesque cruelty and wounded birds face a slow, painful death. Rescuers have often seen birds stuffed into shooters’ bags while still alive.

Injured Eurasian Coot - Kerang -17.5 Kim Wormald

(image: This wounded protected Eurasian Coot was recovered by rescuers at Lake Murphy on May 17. It was treated by a wildlife carer and released at a sanctuary last weekend. Photo by Kim Wormald)

The opening weekend attracted 14,000 hunters across the state, with 26,000 people authorised to hunt ducks. The government says a survey of the state’s 47,000 licensed game hunters found the industry was worth almost $440 million a year. It seems that even the tiniest creature has economic value, equated in dollars!

Laurie Levy, the campaign director with the Coalition Against Duck Shooting, has been an outspoken critic of the industry. “We had rescuers out every weekend of the duck shooting season,” he said.

Again this year, as well as protected and threatened species, lots of so called ‘game’ birds were saved from the shooters’ guns or recovered by rescuers, either dead or wounded.

Despite the dry and quiet season, 10 illegally shot threatened Freckled Ducks, Blue-billed Ducks and Musk Ducks were recovered by rescuers, as well as Swans, Hoary-headed Grebes, over 20 Eurasian Coot and other protected species.

Previous Labor governments in WA, NSW and Queensland have banned the barbaric activity, yet the Victorian Labor party still supports this grotesque cruelty.

(featured image: Freckled duck, Victoria. During the season, rescuers recovered over 100 dead or wounded waterbirds, including illegally shot threatened species such as Freckled Ducks, Blue-billed Ducks and Musk Ducks, as well as protected Hoary-headed Grebes, Eurasian Coots and a Swan)

Petition: Protect our native waterbirds – Ban duck shooting!

Letter to: Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews, Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford

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