The Turnbull Government has released new plans to help save four birds and mammals prioritised for action under the nation’s first Threatened Species Strategy, marking another milestone in the fight for their survival.
These recovery plans show us how to best target efforts to conserve the Regent honeyeater, Orange-bellied Parrot, Mallee Emu-wren and Mountain Pygmy Possum. The plan identifies what needs to be done to ensure their long-term survival in the wild.
Last year, our Threatened Species Strategy set the ambitious target of improving the trajectory of 20 birds and 20 mammals by 2020.
These four species – all endangered or critically endangered – are on that priority list.
Recently ‘uplisted’ to critically endangered, the Regent Honeyeater occurs across south-eastern Australia, feeding in nectar-rich eucalypt forests and woodlands. This striking bird, with its brilliant flashes of yellow, was once seen in flocks of hundreds.
But its population is in decline, with an estimated 350 to 400 of the birds remaining. This updated recovery plan prioritises action to protect its existing habitat, replant where needed, bolster the wild population with captive-bred birds, and raise public awareness of the recovery programme.
Two Green Army teams and 18 National Landcare Programmes are contributing to habitat restoration for the Regent Honeyeater.
Only about 50 of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot survive in the wild, with about 320 in captive breeding programmes. This rare migratory parrot, which summers in Tasmania and winters on the Victorian and South Australian coast, is threatened by habitat loss and degradation.
Past recovery efforts have kept it from extinction, and the latest plan focuses on maintaining its captive insurance population, improving its habitat in Victoria and South Australia and, in Tasmania, managing predators, conducting ecological burns, and managing breeding in the wild, including maintaining nest boxes and providing supplementary feeding for the bird.
The Australian Government has committed $525,000 to help the Tasmanian Government’s captive breeding and recovery programme, disease management and habitat restoration for the orange-bellied parrot.
The biggest threats to the tiny, endangered Mallee Emu-wren are large and frequent fires.
The emu-wren’s numbers and range across north-western Victoria and eastern South Australia dwindled with past clearing of mallee woodlands, and it is now at risk of a catastrophic fire as well as ongoing grazing pressure.
This recovery plan, a first for the species, seeks to manage those risks. Plans to translocate the species and set up a captive insurance population are now backed with $100,000 in Australian Government funding.
Mountain Pygmy Possum
This diminutive, endangered mammal, found only in the Australian Alps, has suffered habitat loss and degradation, compounded by climate change and predation by feral cats and foxes.
The Mountain Pygmy Possum’s new recovery plan highlights the need to reduce current pressures on the species so it can better adapt to a warming climate. That means controlling predators, creating and restoring habitat, protecting it from fire, and expanding its insurance population.
The Australian Government is supporting the plan with $140,000 towards ‘detector dogs’ in Kosciuszko National Park that protect the Mountain Pygmy Possum from feral cats.
We are on track to ensure that all our priority species have up-to-date recovery plans or conservation advices in place or near completion, in line with our first-year target under the Threatened Species Strategy.
In addition, three other nationally-threatened species will also benefit from new recovery plans.
The vulnerable Red-lored Whistler and Western Whipbird come under the same plan as the Mallee Emu-wren, since they share habitat, face common threats and require similar interventions.
The Spotted-Tailed Quoll, a distinctive marsupial carnivore that occurs from north-eastern Queensland to Tasmania, also has a new plan for the first time.
These recovery plans should be celebrated for all they can and do achieve for threatened species.
They provide the roadmaps needed to show the way back, at critical junctures for our native plants and animals.
They bring together scientists, governments and community groups, not only to share their expertise on our flora and fauna, but to coordinate efforts to save them.
They build momentum, direct passion and resources and, ultimately, save species.