“If there was an ark for Australia's most endangered species, what animals and plants would get a berth?”
That was the question interviewer Gregg Borschmann put to the TSR Hub’s Associate Professor Brendan Wintle and Professor David Keith when they took part in a panel discussion at the Australian Museum as part of National Science Week.
The discussion followed a screening of Attenborough's Ark in which conservation icon David Attenborough profiled 10 species he would include on his ark.
Also on the panel was Dr Rebecca Johnson, Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute, and Dr Rebecca Spindler, Head of Conservation Science from Taronga Zoo. The discussion was recorded as part of the 2016 Australian Museum Science Festival, and broadcast ABC’s Radio National.
Brendan Wintle told the audience that 45% of Australia’s birds and 90% of Australia’s mammals do not exist anywhere else in the world.
“As Australians, we have the privilege of living amongst them, but this is also a responsibility.
“We have at least 1700 species very close to extinction...”
Brendan put the Golden Sun Moth on his ark because “it is so good at stopping urban developments in critically endangered basalt plains grasslands”.
David Keith spoke about the importance of conserving the ecosystem, not just the species, and he used an unusual, Hollywood-technicoloured orchid as an example.
“It’s an orchid that’s pollinated by male wasps who are deceived into thinking the flower is a female.
“The reason this works is the plant has evolved to produce a pheromone that mimics the pheromone of the wasp species.
“And recent work has shown the evolutionary tree of the orchid’s pheromone versus the wasp’s as almost mirror images of one another.
“With relationships like this it speaks volumes for conserving the whole rather than little bits of it.”
Image: Southern Brown Bandicoot by Chris Macgregor
New Hub research has quantified the extent of predation by cats on Australia’s birds and identified the species and types of birds most vulnerable to cats. The team found that cats kill over 1 million birds per day in Australia. The total is made up of an estimated 316 million birds killed by feral cats and 61 million killed by pet cats each year.
Sound recorders have been installed across farm land in south-western Victoria and on Kangaroo Island in research to help threatened glossy black-cockatoos and south-eastern red-tailed black-cockatoos, by learning more about their breeding.
As cats and foxes have spread across Australia, islands have prevented the extinctions of several mammals like the boodie. Associate Professor Sarah Legge discusses the importance of safe havens and also summarizes the highlights of a recent 'safe-haven' symposium held at the International Mammalogy Congress in Perth.
The TSR Hub is one of six National Environmental Science Programme hubs and each is making its own important contribution to the national effort to recover our threatened species. Hub Director Brendan Wintle takes a look beyond the TSR Hub to highlight the good work being done on threatened species by our sister hubs.
On sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island a multi-million dollar eradication program removed cats in 2000 and rabbits, rats and mice in 2013. In the aftermath of this effort, beautiful things are emerging. Dr Justine Shaw is leading a TSR Hub project to learn from this experience and monitor how ecosystems respond.