The new additions, totaling , are five times more than the yearly average and double the previous record year set in 2009, analysis by the found.
Among the species include the endangered pink cockatoo – also known as the Major Mitchell cockatoo – which is found across South Australia, Victoria and NSW, the critically endangered Daintree rainbowfish and the Arcadia velvet gecko.
Since colonisation, about 100 of Australia’s unique flora and fauna species have been wiped off the planet. The rate of loss in the past 200 years.
“Every species that was added to the threatened species list last year deserves protection because every creature and plant plays an important role in sustaining the web of life,” ACF’s nature campaigner Peta Bulling said.
“From the tiny little bugs that live on the eucalyptus to the birds that feed on those bugs and then help protect the whole ecosystem from an explosion in the population of a particular insect – nature in all its diversity is so finely balanced and beautiful.”
Bulling said she was most concerned that the Canberra grassland earless dragon had been added – a small reptile that has only three individuals remaining in the ACT.
But the silver lining, she said, was that the dozens of animals added to the threatened species list illustrated the government’s efforts to ensure each animal was documented accurately and cleared the backlog of nominations left by previous governments.
Why were there so many nominations?
The reasons are complex. Firstly, the 2019-20 bushfires devastated much of the landscape and impacted many plants, animals and reptiles. And it takes a while for a species to be added to the list as it has to meet a set of criteria that takes a while to compile.
Since Labor took government two years ago, 223 threatened species and eight ecological communities have been added to the threatened list. Of these, 130 were bushfire-affected species and eight were bushfire-affected ecological communities.
Almost 30 of these listings were completed and ready for ministerial decision in July 2022, but the previous government did not act on them.
Australian National University ecologist Professor Sarah Legge said a lot of this assessment has happened in record time since the Black Summer bushfires.
“The whole assessment is rigorous and robust, but you wouldn’t want to speed it up so much that you’re losing faith in its integrity. But I think there are ways of speeding it up a little bit. It’s more important to make sure the list is current and up to date: you don’t want groups of species that aren’t assessed properly.”
She added that, historically, invertebrates and fish had been poorly counted which could account for more additions of these species than before.
But there’s a range of other factors driving the new additions. These include threats posed by climate change, weak nature protection laws, ongoing habitat destruction and land clearing, said WWF Australia threatened species and climate adaptation ecologist Dr Kita Ashman.
“Part of me was surprised and part of me wasn’t,” Ashman said when she’d seen the record number of species added to the list. “Many species listed last year should have been listed several years ago.”
She added that choosing which species to save was difficult, given the limited funding available.
“We can’t save everything. But the best thing to do is to save the flagship species – yes, we are saving one particular species but it will be benefiting several other species that share that habitat,” she said.
“An example is the greater glider. They need mature, healthy forests to live, but those forests support over 800 animals. It’s not perfect but it’s a good way to do conservation with a limited budget.”
Last October, about five months after Labor won the federal election, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek made a This would see Australia adopt a target of preventing any new extinctions of plants and animals as part of the new federal Threatened Species Action Plan, which focuses on only 110 of our 1900 threatened species.
Plibersek said no one wanted to see any more plants or animals become extinct, which was why the government had invested $500 million in conservation efforts, as well as tackling invasive species.
“A species does not become threatened overnight. We’ve got more threatened species than ever before due to a decade of neglect under the Liberals and Nationals,” she said.
Plibersek added the government was trying to strengthen environmental laws, including establishing Australia’s first national Environment Protection Agency.
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