Drawing inspiration from averting an ‘extinction crisis’ in Australia is not easy – especially when the crises never seems averted. New leadership and evolving science are underpinning a wave of optimism spawned from successful species reintroduction programs around the country.
Yes, Australia has had a very poor rate of extinction over the last 200 years, but the current rate, since the 1980’s for example, is not what it once was (e.g. the Australian Government reported three species were declared extinct from 2000-2009). Of course all extinctions are irreprehensible – and proactive investment in, and management of, biodiversity is required to keep the rate down and ideally eliminate the prospect of extinction.
Living with lowered expectations
If you moved to Canberra in the early 1900’s you could expect Bettongs in your backyard. Before broadscale grazing and agricultural development we could pick native Australian daisies instead of European flatweeds and dandelions in regional towns. Bandicoots were once common in Sydney backyards. If you were a kid growing up on the farm in NSW in 1800’s Pygmy Perch probably provided an easy-caught baitfish for bigger native perch! Our baseline of expectation has been reduced by the lower level of quality of landscape that we now broadly experience.
A novel and exciting future…
A new wave of leadership and management, reintroducing species to areas from which they have been long lost, is presenting new inspiration and a new layering of safeguard for our precious biodiversity. There are a suite of reintroduction programs underway around the nation [many more than this]:
- Eastern Bettongs – “have doubled their numbers since being re-introduced from Tasmania to Mulligans Flat”
- Tasmanian Devils – “now thriving on an island safe haven”
- Ginninderra Peppercress translocated in 2013 – the third known population seeded: “a great example of cooperation between government agencies, NGOs and the community”
- Pygmy Perch – now “doing well and breeding” in their new Pudman home
- The Numbat – reintroduced to Scotia from Western Australia and now “well established”
- The Spider Orchid – “first ever reintroductions in 2012”
- Orange bellied parrots released in 2013– “very exciting to us”
- In Western Australia – three species were even taken off “Schedule 1 – Fauna that is rare or is likely to become extinct” the Quendol, the Tammar Wallaby and the Woylie
These programs are more than another anthropocentric manipulation of our landscape, they provide new education and inspiration opportunities for a community which, by and large, does not know what it is missing.
Although some species are not easily reintroduced (e.g. the Gouldian Finch) – the successful programs do demonstrate that once we remove population disturbance pressures we can fruitfully re-establish new populations of locally-long-gone species.
By demonstrating successful reintroductions, and educating people about the possibilities of their landscapes, we are letting them know what they are missing out on, and we can help build enthusiasm and impetus for landscape restoration.
Landscape repair is a big job and we need the broadest possible but-in to get it done. Focal species reintroductions provide a great discussion point, a rallying point, a focusing of the efforts to enhance our landscapes to make them more diverse and resilient to change. Like all innovative programs they involve risk and won’t be perfect at each step along the way – but we must support them for the vision they present, and the broader benefits they bring engaging and rallying the community in a positive way.
Engendering support with a landscape vision is more enduring that demanding support to avert a crisis.