Australia has had remarkable success with saving species otherwise doomed to extinction – including the Kangaroo Island Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Norfolk
Island Green Parrot and Gilbert’s Potoroo.
Glossy Black-Cockatoos were headed for extinction twenty years ago. The ageing flock of 150 birds scattered among Kangaroo Island’s remaining casuarina trees was not being replenished by younger members.
A combination of research, investment and dedication revealed a previously unrecognised threat - possums. By protecting nest hollows with corrugated iron collars and trimming the foliage of neighbouring trees, nesting success was doubled. Today the population has nearly tripled, with a good chance of continued growth.
Australia’s success stories are worthy of celebration and study, and Project 6.4 will translate research lessons into concrete guidelines for recovery teams, explains Project Leader Professor Stephen Garnett.
“We’ll also learn from the failures - species have been lost that could have been saved. Christmas Island lost its last tiny pipistrelle bat in 2009, and the Bramble Cay native rat hasn’t been seen since 2007,” says Professor Garnett.
“We need to learn lessons from these extinctions - how did species fall through the safety nets of legislation and policy? What systems failed and why? How can we be sure further extinctions can be avoided?
“Monitoring the processes behind recovery may be just as important as monitoring threatened species. This includes pressures placed on individuals, the support mechanisms in place and even different world views - sometimes it is a fear of failure itself that has led to fatal inaction.
“As well as requiring top class science, effective leadership, local commitment, time and substantial investment – organisational governance, resourcing and leadership often appear to influence outcomes. How these interact should emerge over the coming year.”
One element sure to be discussed will be the makeup of successful recovery teams – whether they’re more likely to include advocates as well as managers, and the role NGOs with an interest in conservation can play in ensuring transparency.
Guidelines produced through this project will support the national Threatened Species Strategy by identifying improvements to the recovery process and ultimately increasing the chances of conservation success.
Image: Norfolk Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus cookie) - (Flickr CC by David Cook).
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.