Learning from loss

Date: 29, Feb, 2016
Author(s):   John Woinarski, Stephen Garnett, David Lindenmayer, Sarah Legge
Publisher: Wildlife Australia

Australia has an appalling record of extinctions, losing more plants and mammals over the past 200 years than any other country. Extinction trends suggest that we have learnt little from these losses, for they are occurring still. Just in the past decade two more mammals and a reptile have gone: the Christmas Island pipistrelle (on 26 August 2009), the Bramble Cay melomys (between 2009 and 2014), and the Christmas Island forest skink (on 31 May 2014). Currently, governments are mute in response to extinctions. There is no obligation for review or to apportion culpability. In such absence, we conducted an unofficial inquiry into the three recent extinctions, with our review published in the journal Conservation Biology. We followed the steps typical of coronial inquiries – detailing the circumstances of the ‘deceased’ and their ‘deaths’, identifying causal or contributory factors, and recommending reforms. Most conservation biologists who examine extinctions focus on ecological causes, such as habitat destruction or introduced predators. We took a broader perspective, by considering also the legal, policy and management failings.