19 Feb 2024


But a threatened species report card gives Australia an “F” for funding, recovery planning, and threat status improvement

The Golden-backed Tree-rat, also known as the koorrawal, has defied the odds – at least technically according to government guidelines.

A report just published in One Earth found 99.56% of Australia’s land-based threatened species have either had no improvement in their recovery status or their situation has worsened.

The fraction of 1% that did improve is made up of the Golden-backed Tree-rat and seven plant species. All have all been delisted – a rare occurrence in the history of our nation’s endangered species.

Being delisted doesn’t necessarily mean populations are increasing. In the case of the Golden-backed Tree-rat, numbers may still be decreasing but not at the rate that warrants remaining on the threatened species list.

Australia is failing to protect our unique plants and animals say the paper’s authors who have designed a threatened species report card to raise awareness of the scale of the problem and inspire action.

As a nation, the Australian government scored an “F” across a number of key criteria used to report on how our nation’s threatened plants and animals are doing in terms of their protection, funding, recovery and threat status trajectory.   

This is an alarming signal that more is needed to support management of our nation’s threatened species if we are to secure their recovery rather than simply holding the tide of extinction.

The authors also looked at the Australian government’s efforts in supporting threatened species recovery in each state and territory. 

While some states scored as high as an “A” for persistence, and “B” for habitat protection which highlights what can be achieved, the overall picture was grim with every state scoring an “F” for federal government funding and threat status trajectory, and no state scoring better than a “D” for recovery planning.

A simplified version of the report card ratings can be seen at wwf.org.au/mybackyard , a website that has had 103,000 page views.

Alarmingly, more than 90% of listed threatened species have no dedicated funding at all, and a further 5% of species, including the koala, have some funding but not enough. 

In fact, just 1% -- which equates to 25 species – has sufficient funding. This includes the Kangaroo Island echidna, Kangaroo Island dunnart, and the Mountain Pygmy-possum.

Co-lead authors Dr Michelle Ward and Dr Tracy Rout, both from the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia, say their paper adds to other studies showing Australia’s key environmental legislation, the EPBC Act, in its current form, is not protecting our biodiversity.

“Most of Australia’s threatened species are impacted by habitat loss, a factor well within the government’s control to prevent,” Dr Ward said.

“If Australia truly wants to turn the tide on Australia’s threatened species then we need an independent, well-regulated body to oversee the implementation of a strengthened EPBC Act,” she said.

Dr Rout pointed out that Australia is at the forefront of the global extinction crisis, with the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world, globally significant rates of deforestation and habitat loss, and almost 2000 species at risk of extinction.

“Stopping the further loss of habitat is essential to prevent extinctions and stop common species becoming threatened. We need strong environmental legislation to do this, which is why the current EPBC Act reform is so critical,” Dr Rout said.

“It is possible to recover threatened species with enough funding. Australia currently underspends on species recovery and conservation,” she said.

The Australian Government has launched a survey for the public to provide feedback on proposed reforms to EPBC laws, which is a great opportunity for people to have their say and ensure the new legislation tackles issues like species decline. Learn more about the key reforms WWF wants to see in this guide.