Staving off extinction – more than luck and fate

Date: 02, Oct, 2017
Author(s):   Lindenmayer, D.B., Woinarski, J.C.Z., Legge, S.M., Garnett, S.T.
Publisher: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Adrian Burton regularly writes a fascinating column in Frontiers, and his article from December 2016 (“Staving off extinction”) discusses two Australian species: the Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola) and the Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis). However, we suggest the article misses a key and generalizable point about their fates (extinction and to‐date successful conservation, respectively) as well as the factors that led to those fates. That is, the Lord Howe Island stick insect survives today not simply because of luck but because conservation managers intervened rapidly, effectively, and decisively (Priddel et al. 2003). Consequently, there are now captive colonies around the world and staged plans for an eventual reintroduction to Lord Howe Island (Priddel and Carlile 2010). Although its future in the wild is not yet secured, the stick insect is a remarkable story of conservation success. Conversely, the Bramble Cay melomys was rendered extinct in large part because of management inaction and disregard. As Burton noted, this was a species living on a knife‐edge: it should have been evident to any person or agency with any responsibility for its survival that it needed help. Its extinction could readily have been averted – and should have been – through simple and appropriate conservation actions (Woinarski et al. 2017).