Reckon it’s all doom and gloom for the planet? Today we have compiled 10 (of many) amazing wins for Australian wildlife conservation in 2021.
While many Australian animals and plants inch closer and closer to extinction, it is certainly important to acknowledge the impressive work that is undertaken by individuals and organisations to protect threatened species as well as the habitats they rely on. In 2021, there were some major funding and policy successes that supported our most vulnerable. This blog post is focused at a more grass roots level and shares 10 amazing wins for Australia’s most threatened wildlife in 2021.
- A small fluffy mouse comes “back from the dead”
Australia has a terrible track record of mammal species: a total of 32 species lost forever – but in 2021, a true miracle occurred. Genetic analysis by Museum Victoria found the Gould’s Mouse (Pseudomys gouldii), a small mouse thought extinct over a century ago, was actually still alive and kicking in small remnant populations – under a different alias, the “Djoongari” or “Shark Bay Mouse”.
The mouse used to range across most of southern and central Australia and is still classified as Vulnerable to extinction. So although it certainly isn’t out of the clear, it isn’t often that species get a second chance from extinction in today’s day and age – which makes it a very exciting story!
2. Plans are announced for the first ever Kowari translocation
In 2021, Arid Recovery, announced plans to reintroduce the Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei) – a small fluffy carnivore with a large black paintbrush for a tail tip – inside a fenced conservation reserve where they will live without the threat of predation by introduced cats and foxes. The species has been given a 20 % chance of surviving the next 20 years and bold conservation action like this is exactly what is needed to turn their story around
3. Captive-bred birds increase the population of Critically Endangered parrots
The Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is a small, migratory bird that travels between Tasmania and the southern Australian coast each year. With an estimated 87 % chance of extinction in the next 20 years, critically low numbers make urgent conservation action imperative. A several-million-dollar captive breeding program is kicking goals and in 2021, a record number of 70 captive-bred parrots have survived their migration and returned to southwest Tasmania where breeding is already recorded. Slow and steady progress shows things might be looking up for Orange-bellied Parrots as numbers have risen from 17 in 2016 to 51 in 2020 and now 70 birds in 2021.
4. Woylies return to central Australia after missing from the landscape for more than 60 years
The Woylie or Brush-tailed Bettong (Bettongia penicillata) once covered 60 % of the mainland but has since disappeared from 99 % of their former range. In August 2021, 44 Woylies were reintroduced into a large feral-proof fenced area created by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy team where they joined two other threatened mammals – the Mala and the Red-tailed Phascogale – as part of an ambitious rewildling project in the central desert.
5. Ambitious plan is underway to eradicate feral cats from Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Off the coast of South Australia, Kangaroo Island plans to become the largest inhabited feral-cat-free island in the world. Work is already underway to remove feral cats with an ambitious target of completion by 2030. Kangaroo Island is one of five islands identified as priorities for feral cat eradication work.
6. The first Western Ground Parrot translocation… ever
In April of 2021, the first ever Western Ground Parrot (Pezoporous flaviventris) translocation took place on the south coast of Western Australia. This bright green bird only has an estimated 75 % chance of survival in the next 20 years unless urgent action is taken to secure it.
7. Two native rodents return to Dirk Hartog Island as part of the 1616 rewilding project
As part of an exciting government-run rewilding project, 80 Djoongari or “Shark Bay Mice” (Pseudomys gouldii) and 58 Greater Stick-nest Rats (Leporillus conditor) were released onto Dirk Hartog Island off the coast of Shark Bay, Western Australia. These 2 rodents joined 4 other threatened mammals, Mala or Rufous Hare-wallaby, Banded Hare-wallaby, Shark Bay Bandicoot and Dibbler, as part of “Return to 1616”, an ambitious project restoring the fauna assemblage to mimic pre-European settlement.
Also, one beautiful fact about the Greater Stick-nest Rat is that males present females with flowers to impress them! We certainly wouldn’t want to lose these furry romantics to extinction!
8. Regent Honeyeaters boost wild populations
In November 2021, 58 captive-bred Regent Honeyeaters were released into New South Wales forests in an attempt to save this Critically Endangered bird. With only 300 birds thought to remain in the wild and a 57 % chance of surviving the next 20 years, it is wonderful to see conservation resources going towards protecting these beautiful birds.
9. Critically Endangered Plains Wanderer receives the gift of habitat
A small, obscure ground bird, the Plains Wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus)– that many of you might never have heard of – is listed as Critically Endangered with an estimated 64 % chance of extinction in the next 20 years. Consequently, 25 landholders in southwest New South Wales have set aside 13,000 ha of ideal habitat to help protect this bird into the future.
10. A lucky sighting brings hope for Numbat conservation
Numbats – some of the most unique animals I’ve ever encountered– and definitely my favourites – got a bit of news coverage in May of 2021. An individual was spotted by a local farmer and later confirmed using remote motion sensor cameras more than 50 km away from the closest known population in the West Australian wheatbelt region.
Numbats once covered most of southern and central Australia but have since disappeared from 99 % of their range. Estimates suggest as few as 1000 individuals of these beautiful banded bandits remain in wild populations which is why conservation work to protect them has been a priority.
Stories like these honestly bring a tear to my eye. When shit really hits the fan its easy to throw your hands in the air in desperation – more so when it whacks the fan again and again and again. When you think about the time and energy that people have put towards protecting our most vulnerable – the work has literally kept some species alive and kicking on this planet. That work, although not over, is truly incredible – and should be acknowledged.
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