Every year on September 7 we commemorate National Threatened Species Day to raise awareness of plants and animals at risk of extinction. Sadly, our efforts at 'raising awareness' haven't been sufficient to prevent more species being added to the list each year.
This got me thinking: maybe total numbers covering the whole of Australia, or even an individual state or territory, don't have sufficient impact. Maybe, knowing the figures for our own local areas (along with species with which we are more likely to be familiar) would make more of an impression.
As the WIRES mission is to rehabilitate and preserve wildlife and inspire others to do the same, I researched threatened native animals in two local government areas covered by our branch of WIRES: Goulburn Mulwaree and Upper Lachlan.
To my amazement I discovered that out of the more than 280 native animals listed as threatened in NSW, 66 of them occur in our branch area.
Depending on how threatened an animal is, they can be listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. If an animal has not been found in the wild for some time, scientists will determine if it's to be presumed extinct in the wild. An animal is assessed as threatened if the number of animals across the whole population is low, the animals are only found in a small area so the whole population could be quickly affected by harmful events such as fire, flood or disease, or if there are too few adults in the population to have enough babies to maintain it.
- Critically endangered: 2 (Hooded Plover and Regent Honeyeater)
- Endangered: 4 (Australian Painted Snipe, Australasian Bittern, Swift Parrot, Little Tern)
- Vulnerable: 29 (including such well-known species as Scarlet and Flame Robins, Gang-gang Cockatoos, Barking, Powerful, Sooty and Masked Owls)
- Critically endangered: 1 (Smoky Mouse)
- Endangered: 2 (Southern Brown Bandicoot and Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby)
- Vulnerable: 7 (Koala, Eastern Pygmy Possum, Yellow-bellied Glider, Squirrel Glider, Spotted-tailed Quoll, White-footed Dunnart, Long-nosed Potoroo)
- Endangered: 1 (Broad-headed Snake)
- Vulnerable: 4 (Rosenberg's Goanna, Pink-tailed Legless lizard, Striped Legless Lizard, Little Whipsnake)
- Critically endangered: 1 (Yellow-spotted Tree Frog)
- Endangered: 3 (Stuttering Frog, Green Golden Bell Frog, Booralong Frog)
- Vulnerable: 3 (Giant Burrowing Frog, Red-crowned Toadlet, Littlejohn's Tree Frog)
- Vulnerable: 9 (Southern Myotis, Large-eared Pied Bat, Eastern Coastal Freetail Bat, Greater Broad-nosed Bat, Large Bent-winged bat, Little Bent-winged bat, Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat, Eastern False Pipistrelle and Grey-headed Flying Fox)
So, what can we do? We may wish to help, but the task looked at as a whole is overwhelming. Apart from supporting and/or joining local environmental groups and perhaps donating money, there is often little we can do in our day to day living.
However, one thing we can all do is improve the environment 'in our own backyard'. Land clearing and fragmentation by development and roads is reducing wildlife habitat, but we can all help in some small way to compensate for this. Every shrub or small, dense foliage tree (preferably native, but even exotic) makes a difference, especially to small birds.
They need dense bushes to hide from predators, to roost in and build nests. Ideally, if possible, plant a few in one spot so they have several places to escape to when threatened. We can all plant shrubs, no matter where we live or how small our garden; even potted shrubs on a balcony or in a courtyard will help.
The environment and our wildlife are in trouble, and their biggest threat is assuming that someone else will save them. So, please, be that someone else!