7 Apr 2020
BRINGING OUR WILDLIFE BACK FROM THE BRINK
Is it really possible to bring threatened wildlife back from the brink of extinction? Can we actually turn the tide? According to Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes, the answer is a resounding “Yes”.
“For a lot of Australian animals, if you can remove their key threats, they can respond very quickly. If they can just catch a break, they’ll do the rest. So it’s our role to give them that chance,” says Darren.
WWF-Australia and its partners are delivering ambitious projects to help save threatened native wildlife like the black-flanked rock-wallaby, quokka and glossy black cockatoo.
With nearly 500 animals on Australia’s threatened species list, Darren is one of many dedicated people who are working tirelessly to bring our precious wildlife back from the brink.
And as Darren says, “It’s no easy task, but we can turn the tide for our wildlife if we take action.”
Here are three animals that now have a brighter future thanks to plans put in place to help protect them.
Imagine a world without our majestic humpback whales passing by our coastlines every winter. This was almost the reality just a few decades ago when these gentle giants were all but hunted to extinction. In the 1960s and 1970s, the numbers of humpback whales had virtually collapsed.
But in 1986, a worldwide ban on whale hunting was declared. Although these graceful creatures are still listed as threatened, their numbers are steadily increasing. In fact, the rate of increase in our humpbacks that travel along the east and west coast of Australia is thought to be the highest in the world.
“Humpback whales, incredibly for such large animals, really breed like rabbits, and their populations have boomed,” says Darren. “They're now back to about 30,000 in number – that’s starting from a base of about 300 animals.”
Tigers are the largest species of cat and one of the most iconic animals on the planet. It’s thought that there may have been over 100,000 roaming the Earth about a century ago, but by 2010 only about 3,200 were left. At that point, we had lost over 95% of the world’s wild tiger population to poaching and habitat loss.
But thanks to a long and coordinated conservation campaign, tiger numbers are now on the rise for the first time in 100 years. “It’s slow, but they are increasing, especially in places like India, Nepal, Bhutan and Russia,” says Darren. “And we now have thirteen tiger countries across the world that have committed to an ambitious international goal to double the number of wild tigers by 2022.”
Northern hairy-nosed wombat
Back home in Australia, the northern hairy-nosed wombat was thought to be extinct, until a tiny population was found in central Queensland in the 1930s. For ecologists, it was like winning the wildlife lottery. But by the 1980s, only 30 animals were left after the impacts on their habitat from grazing and competition from introduced animals became too much.
“This was a species that 250 years ago would've been found in the northwestern border of Victoria, through southwestern New South Wales and up through central Queensland. It has been reduced to one tiny spot, known as Epping Forest National Park,” Darren says.
“This is a species that would most certainly be extinct without the intensive work that has been done to protect the habitat, address threats and to establish a new population,” says Darren. “And fortunately, they haven't been impacted by massive fires.”
Thanks to dedicated action, the numbers of these shy creatures have now increased fourfold. And, although they are still critically endangered – about 160 in the wild at last count – it’s a dramatic change in terms of population numbers. They now have a real chance of survival.
Turning the tide
But according to Darren, we need much stronger environmental laws to give our most threatened wildlife a fighting chance.
“When Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (the EPBC) was developed, globally it was probably considered a leading piece of environmental legislation,” Darren says.
“But that's over 20 years ago now – times have moved on. The threats, whether it be climate change or whether it be species extinction, have escalated over that time frame and we’re still using an outdated piece of legislation to try and manage it.”
You can help turn the tide for our wildlife. Right now, the Australian Government is running a once in 10-year review of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act 1999). You have a chance to have your say and make a submission.
We need as many voices as possible to take a stand and ask our decision-makers to strengthen our laws to give our wildlife a chance.
Will you help? It only takes 60 seconds, but it could make all the difference.