The habitats of nearly 140 of Australia’s most threatened animals, including the hairy-nosed wombat and the green sawfish, remain unprotected despite recent growth in the country’s network of nature reserves, a new report has found.
Of the 1,613 species listed nationally as threatened, 138 fall outside the “safety net” of a protected area, the WWF analysis found. Of Australia’s recognised 5,815 land-based ecosystems, 1,655 remain unprotected.
Critically endangered species without protected habitat include the northern hairy-nosed wombat, the world’s largest burrowing herbivore, which numbers just 126 in the wild.
The green sawfish, a relative of the shark now found only north of Cairns, and the Dawson Yellow Chat, a Queensland songbird reduced to just 200 individuals, also face being wiped out without adequate protection. Of all animals listed as critically endangered, 20% have no protection at all.
The lack of suitable havens for these animals is despite an increase in Australia’s national reserve system. A total of 16.5% of Australia’s land mass is under some sort of protection, with national parks making up 8.3% of this total. In 2002, 9.5% of Australia’s landmass was protected.
With a third of Australia’s waters in protected areas, the country is on target to meet a key international goal on protected areas, but WWF said the coverage was uneven and leaving species at risk of being abandoned.
The conservation organisation said the federal government should work with states to create a comprehensive network of reserves that protect biodiversity, as well as prohibiting mining in areas placed under protection.
“A boost in funding over the past five years has seen tremendous progress in the expansion of Australia’s national reserve system, growth that will make a huge difference to survival of native wildlife in the years to come,” said Dr Martin Taylor, the report’s author.
“Unfortunately, we are still far from protecting the full range of Australian ecosystems, and there are still many threatened species whose habitats remain outside the safety net.”
According to WWF, it will cost Australia an additional 0m a year over the next five years to meet its goals for habitat protection, with 7m required in total to secure the desired marine reserve area.
This expenditure is offset by the .6bn spent by visitors to Australia’s national parks and nature reserves each year.
On Monday, the federal government announced a further m to protect threatened species in the group of federal national parks, which includes Kakadu, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.
The money will be spent tackling invasive threats such as foxes and feral cats, while supporting populations of bandicoots and northern quolls. In all, 10 projects will be funded with the cash.
Greg Hunt, the environment minister, said feral cats, which kill an estimated 75m creatures every day, have proved a “wrecking ball” to native animals.
“I don’t want my children to find the northern quoll, the partridge pigeon or the long nosed potoroo only in history books,” he said.
“That’s why I declared war on feral cats. That’s why I committed to ending the loss of mammal species by 2020.
“I appointed Australia’s first threatened species commissioner to champion this cause and made sure he was embedded in my department where he could most effectively influence and access resources for threatened species.”
The funding announcement is part of a number of commitments made by Hunt during the World Parks Congress, which is currently taking place in Sydney. Last week, m was pledged to help end deforestation in south-east Asia, with a further m earmarked to protect coral ecosystems in the region.
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