“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
In only 60 years Australia has lost over 90% of a type of forest that once covered 130,000 square kilometres, and could be losing plants with important medicinal uses.
One of Northern Australia’s rarest animals will be helped by a new monitoring technique developed by a Charles Darwin University research student. Butler’s Dunnart, discovered by famous adventurer Harry Butler in 1965, is so rare it was only seen 8 times in the next 37 years.
Tiny sound recorders will be set up near the nests of South-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, as part of ground-breaking research to monitor the nesting habits of the endangered species.
Low numbers of Eastern Barred Bandicoots in Victoria have resulted in low genetic diversity which is a threat to plans to rebuild numbers in breeding programs. A new partnership is addressing the issue with an innovative breeding program which is introducing Tasmanian genes to the Victorian population.
Booderee National Park is welcoming the return of locally extinct mammals. Long-nosed potoroos and southern brown bandicoots have already been reintroduced to Booderee after being locally extinct for up to a century, and now preparations are underway to welcome a third threatened species, the eastern quoll, back to the park.