In Biblical times, Noah made a plan to secure the Earth’s creatures during the almighty flood. He loaded seven pairs of the most valued land animals and
birds, and one pair of everything else, onto his Ark. In Australia today, mammal conservationists also need to plan for floods – but not of water,
rather of introduced predators. With a bit of systematic planning, havens could serve as modern-day arks for threatened species. Sarah Legge has a story to tell.
Feral cats and European red foxes spread rapidly across the continent soon after European settlement, causing many extinctions. Cats and foxes are the main reason that Australia holds the world record for the most mammal extinctions in modern times. Some mammals only avoided extinction because they had populations on islands that remained free of cats and foxes. For example, the once quite widespread greater stick- nest rat (Leporillus conditor) was extirpated from mainland Australia, but avoided total extinction because it occurred on the Franklin Islands off South Australia.
Many landscapes in Australia are fire-prone, and increasingly so. Altered fire regimes can have a serious negative impact on threatened plant species and ecological communities. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project is working to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on threatened flora in order to improve fire management strategies and conservation outcomes.
Almost a quarter of Australia’s possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law, and many more are showing signs of decline. Dr Rochelle Steven from The University of Queensland believes people in the community can do a lot to support conservation, especially in urban areas.
The detection and monitoring of threatened species have been a strong area of research in the National Environmental Science Program and also the two national environmental research programs which preceded it. Hub Director Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at what we’ve been achieving and why it is so important to the conservation of Australia’s threatened species.
In 2009, the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko were headed for imminent extinction. Parks Australia acted quickly to collect remaining wild individuals in order to establish captive breeding programs on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, which have been highly successful. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project team is working closely with Parks Australia to help secure a future for the two lizards beyond captivity.
The silver-headed antechinus and black-tailed dusky antechinus are carnivorous marsupials found in high-elevation forests in parts of central-eastern and south-eastern Queensland. They were only described in the past six years, but they are already listed as Endangered. Knowing where they occur is essential for effective conservation, but current distribution knowledge is patchy. To address this, PhD candidate Stephane Batista in partnership with the Queensland Herbarium and Queensland Department of Environment and Science is modelling the habitat where these threatened species are likely to occur, and is using detection dogs to rapidly survey these sites.