This year three report marks an important milestone for the Threatened Species Strategy.
As the mid-point of a five year Action Plan, this Report provides an opportunity to report on progress and adapt approaches to achieve the best outcomes for Australia’s threatened and unique species.
It captures the actions and highlights in threatened species protection since my last report 12 months ago, and reports on progress against the targets in the Threatened Species Strategy.
Under the Strategy, the Australian Government outlined four key action areas to focus efforts to achieve significant, positive outcomes for our threatened species: tackling feral cats and their impacts, safe havens for species most at risk, improving habitat and undertaking emergency interventions to avert extinctions.
To measure progress against these action areas, the Strategy includes ambitious targets to decrease the impacts of feral cats on our threatened species, increase the number of fenced areas and feral-free islands as safe havens, improve the trajectories of 20 birds, 20 mammals and 30 threatened plant species and improve recovery practices. These are split into one year, three year and five year targets.
The year three targets are ambitious. Recovery can take time and the immediate threats to our threatened species can be difficult to combat. Improvements require utilising the most up-to-date science to inform management actions and depend on the contributions of many partners, including state and territory governments, business, non‑government organisations, communities and Indigenous groups.
I am pleased to report that of the 21 targets for year three, 11 have been met and four partially met. Six of our targets were not achieved but, in many cases, good progress was still made.
Feral cat control is estimated to be occurring across 18 million hectares of the Australian landscape, which is reducing the impact on our birds and mammals such as the Western Ground Parrot, Central Rock-rat and the Woylie. Action to eradicate feral cats on five islands is well underway - on Christmas Island, feral cat eradication is being rolled out across the National Park and township, while the Western Australian Government’s work on Dirk Hartog Island has led to it being declared completely feral cat-free, paving the way for the reintroduction of ten mammal and one bird species that had disappeared from the island. Five remaining mainland feral-free fenced areas have been identified to add to the existing fenced areas, which will provide safe havens for some of our iconic species such as the Eastern Quoll and the Bilby so they can recover and even thrive.
I am also delighted that the targets to protect Australia’s plants have been met. More than 50 per cent of Australia’s known threatened plant species are now stored in conservation seed banks. In addition, recovery actions are underway for many of our threatened plants and threatened ecological communities, funded by the Australian Government and our many partners.
Improving the trajectory of ten priority birds and ten priority mammals within the space of three years was always going to be a challenge. The assessment of these targets has also been demanding, requiring a robust, scientific approach which acknowledges the lack of data in some areas, but utilises a wealth of expertise to provide the best available assessment of population trends.
I’m pleased to see that the trajectories of six birds and eight mammals are improving at this mid-way point. While we have not met the target, there is ample evidence that the collective and sustained effort of committed individuals and organisations across Australia and the contributions from Australian Government programs such as the Threatened Species Recovery Fund, the 20 Million Trees Program and the National Landcare Program has made a real difference to species that are facing dire threats to their survival.
Actions over the past three years are likely to lead to further improvements in the future, as activities such as tree planting increase the quantity and quality of habitat available over time.
There is still considerable work to do to meet the target of all priority birds, mammals and plants improving their trajectory by 2020, and this will need sustained effort to protect and recover their populations.
Australia is home to many unique species, but awareness of this incredible diversity is not high. A really important and rewarding part of my role has been to meet the communities and organisations working to improve the outcomes of our threatened species and to share these endeavours through social media to an ever increasing Australian audience. My Facebook page now has 31,300 followers, while Twitter has 9,900 and Instagram 1,400. The Threatened Species Bake Off in September 2018 also reached a new audience of families and communities, united in baking their favourite threatened species-themed cakes and biscuits in tea rooms around the country. By raising awareness through social media and community engagements such as with schools and other audiences, the community can better understand their natural environment and this can lead to taking greater action to protect it. Through encouraging partnerships and funding through innovative means such as the Threatened Species Prospectus, our collective efforts can achieve greater results.
Looking forward, this report will help to inform the next steps, as we focus on the task of achieving the even more ambitious targets in year five. During this time, the Australian Government’s Regional Land Partnerships program will provide an important boost to achieving outcomes for threatened species.
I would like to acknowledge the contribution from our many partners who have helped prepare this report, including scientists from the National Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, state and territory governments and other organisations such as Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Bush Heritage Australia, Birdlife Australia, recovery teams and Indigenous ranger groups.
An update to the report
Two species were under assessment by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee at the time of preparation of the Year Three Report, the Leadbeater’s Possum and Northern Hopping Mouse, and hence were not included in the trajectories assessment. Subsequently, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee has completed its assessment of the Leadbeater’s Possum and the Minister has made a decision that it should remain critically endangered. For the most up to date information on the Leadbeater’s Possum, please refer to the approved Conservation Advice which will be available on this website shortly.
Dr Sally Box
Threatened Species Commissioner