Australia’s endangered animals

Since European settlement and introduced predators, hundreds of species have become extinct in Australia. Today, nearly 1 in 3 of our unique mammals is at risk of extinction!

5 Australian endangered animals at risk of extinction

1. Black-flanked Rock-wallaby– Status: Endangered

Known in the Western Desert as Warru or the Black-footed Rock-wallaby, these endangered marsupials were once widespread across many parts of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. They live in rugged rocky areas where they shelter during the day in caves, cliffs, screes and rockpiles. They emerge at dusk to feed on grasses, forbs, shrubs and occasionally seeds and fruits. Feeding occurs as near shelter as possible, especially where exotic predators are present.

The clearing of its habitat, changes to fire patterns and introduced foxes and wild cats, all threaten their existence. They only survive today in small isolated populations. Our work with Martu people is helping them make a comeback.

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2. Eastern Curlew - Status: Critically Endangered

The largest of all the world’s shorebirds, the Eastern Curlew’s impressive bill is used to probe mud and dig up crabs and molluscs which is their main food source in Australia. Sadly, they’re critically endangered and have declined by more than 80% in the past 50 years.

The Eastern Curlew takes an annual migratory flight to Russia and north-eastern China to breed, arriving back home to Australia to fatten up before the long journey up north again to breed. They can be spotted in coastal regions of north-eastern and southern Australia. They can also be found at the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary where their habitat is protected.

The Eastern Curlew is declining as a result of habitat destruction and alteration to the chain of coastal wetlands along their migratory path. The loss of even small areas of wetland can be devastating. Many of these wetlands are being damaged by urban development, flood mitigation, agriculture and pollution. Direct disturbance on beaches by humans, domestic dogs and vehicles can cause stress to birds.

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Eastern Curlew

3. Gouldian Finch – Status: Endangered

Sometimes known as the Painted or Rainbow Finch, the Gouldian Finch is perhaps the most beautiful small bird in the world. The impressive colour of their plumage appealed to bird enthusiasts where a large number of them were harvested for the local and international bird trade up until the early 1980’s.

Fire plays a large role in their survival. In the dry season, they are dependent on controlled fires to burn the undergrowth so that they can find seeds on the ground to feed on. In the wet season, they prefer to live in areas which have been burned in the previous dry season. This produces lush new growth with plenty of seeds for food. Improved burning practices are helping them make a comeback.

Other activities likely to impact the Gouldian Finch population is over-harvesting by unlicensed bird trappers, introduced diseases and habitat & vegetation changes as a result of fire and land clearing.

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4. Northern Quoll – Status: Endangered

These spotted marsupial predators of the north are carnivorous marsupials. They are susceptible to cane toad toxins, fire and introduced predators such as foxes and cats. The cause of declines is largely due to cane toads where they often mistake poisonous cane toads for native frogs, eat them and then die from the poison.

In areas where cane toads are not colonised, Northern Quoll declines can be related to predation by feral cats. The impacts of cats are exacerbated by extensive wildfires, habitat degradation through over-grazing and urban development which reduce ground cover and hence shelter for these small mammals.

Highly adaptable, Northern Quolls are finding refuge on some offshore, toad-free islands and thriving on Fish River Station, Northern Territory. They will also benefit from better land management practices in the Kimberley.

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5. Black-footed Tree-rat – Status: Endangered

Also known to Aboriginal people as the Djintamoonga or Manbul, the Black-footed Tree-rat can weigh almost a kilogram and stands up to 31 cm tall. Populations have declined by an estimated 30-50% in the last decade.

Its threats include changes in fire regimes and predation by feral cats. Intense wildfires reduce the abundance of fleshy-fruited shrubs favoured by Black-footed Tree-rats, as well as the availability of hollow trees. Clearing for agriculture has reduced the extent of their habitat in localised areas including north-east Queensland and parts of the Northern Territory.

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