Australia has lost 10 percent of its land mammal species during the last 200 years and conservationists state that many more are threatened with endangerment. This extinction calamity worries the population due to the fact land mammals located in the area do not have many natural predators. According to researchers at Charles Darwin University in Australia, no other country on Earth as had such a high rate of land mammal extinction over the period of 200 years.
Conservationists and scientists in Australia stated that the main problem for the steep decline of land mammals is predation from red foxes and feral cats, which were originally introduced from Europe. Large scale wildfires and the deforestation they cause are also affecting land mammals. Some say that since Australia is an affluent, sparsely-populated nation, its wildlife should be reasonably secure from threats that lead to habitat loss. However, a survey regarding this problem was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the problem is much larger than anticipated.
Since 1788, 11 percent of 273 native land mammals have gone extinct, 21 percent have been listed as threatened and 15 percent are near levels of being threatened, the survey found. John Woinarski, a conservation biologist who led the research, explained that no other nation has been hit with such a higher number and percentage of extinctions over that amount of time. Moreover, he said that the number his team reported for Australia is significantly higher than what they previously estimated. As well, 56 more land mammals native to Australia have now been considered threatened, indicating that this tremendously high rate of animal diversity loss will endure unless considerable changes are made.
Some Australian conservationists believe the magnitude of the problem has been underappreciated since recent because the main mammal loss has been with small, nocturnal, rodent-like species. These land mammals lack the public profile worthy to intervene; therefore, their disappearance has gone largely unnoticed. One of the mammals that has recently reached the spotlight is the brush-tailed rabbit-rat, a native species that has been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a near-threatened species.
The future prospects for endangered Australian land mammals are currently being studied by researchers from Southern Cross University, Charles Darwin University and the Wanneroo Department of Parks and Wildlife. They stated that with recent studies, species that are classic icons of Australian wildlife, like the koala, are likely to decline if nothing is done to alleviate the problem with invasive, predatory species. Although, it will be a formidable challenge, they explained that prospects for Australian land mammals can be improved.
Conservation studies estimate there are around 15 to 23 million feral cats living in the country. When the cats came off the boat from Europe, they multiplied very quickly due to the fact they had no natural predator. Currently, measures are being taken to protect native spices on the islands surrounding Australia by improving biosecurity and the sale and trade of species not native to the area. Furthermore, scientists say the islands off of the mainland could act as “arks” for the endangered and threatened land mammals if the wildfires pose a great threat.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: Jo Christian Oterhals – Flickr License