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Byron Shire
February 3, 2023

Paying lip service to threatened species

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Contrary to common knowledge threatened species get little more consideration than the common brushtail possum does. Although Australia has an international obligation to protect threatened species the Australian Government (both Labour and Coalition) has paid this little more than lip service. This is reflected in the lack of rigor in pre-logging surveying for threatened species, applying prescriptions under the Threatened Species Conservation Act to protect, and regulation by EPA.

In essence, if a threatened species GPS record for that location doesn’t exist and none are located in a survey, none exist. This doesn’t take into account the time of year (which will obviously affect the count of  migratory species) or localized patterns of movement by fauna. It is currently routine practice to have over 30 threatened fauna species to be considered in fauna surveys but only a couple are considered in the plan. So an important habitat tree for say a Brush-tailed Phascogale might be left but without understorey or other trees needed for survival.

Tony Burke banged on about the urgency of acting to protect threatened species when he put the koala on the threatened species list but failed to protect any koala habitat. This type of incompetence/ wilful ignorance cannot be allowed to manage natural resources without the risk of serious consequences including extinction, though it seems this is the trajectory koalas and other threatened species (TS’s) now face.

The term ‘threatened species’ itself has become a meaningless ecotourism tag that advertises a holiday location. Many uninformed Australians jump to whinge about locking up national parks and make derogatory comments about conservation without understanding how dire the situation actually is. Only when they start to topple in the next few years will the term ‘threatened species’ get attention. By then it may be too late.

We may prefer to be distracted by other things but threatened species thrive through ecosystem services; the same ecosystems we need for our survival and happiness. The only way things will ever change is when more Australians understand that conservation is a legitimate land use that we all benefit from. It is a matter where the wider public needs to speak up and help guide political decision making.

Glen Little, Dorrigo

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  1. Excellent letter Glen, thank you. It is precisely because of government denial, greed and apathy that Australia has the world’s worst record in mammal extinctions and also the largest slaughter of land-based wildlife (i.e. the kangaroo). It doesn’t appear to be getting even remotely better – in fact, worse.

    I truly think that people have not the slightest idea what an ecosystem service provided by a native animal means …. and how it affects us humans. Is this even taught in schools these days? If not, it should be.
    Some simple examples I can think of ….. native animals fertilise the ground with their excrement. This then makes the trees healthier which go on to produce more oxygen and uptake more carbon dioxide.

    When we fell trees (for wood or to create grazing land, or land for housing estates etc) many species such as birds lose a bit more habitat. Being extremely territorial, if they lose somewhere to shelter and try to shelter in another bird’s tree, they will be killed. Less birds = more insects. More insects = more chemicals used to protect crops = sicker humans.

    Another one – flying foxes roost too close to humans so they are relocated or ‘culled.’ Without bats we have fewer night-time pollinators of of night-flowering species, fewer hardwood forests, eucalypts, banksias, melaleucas and about 30% less fruit.

    Fewer microbats means more insects like vector carrying mosquitoes that bite humans and spread disease.

    Fewer kangaroos eating dry grasses that ignite easily in bush fires lead to more disastrous bush fires.

    There are heaps more – just a few I can think of. Does anyone even consider such services rendered free of charge by native animals? I doubt it. They are just ‘in the way’ and must be removed because we ‘own’ the land……such is the hubris of our species.


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