Australia's endangered animals
5 Australian endangered animals at risk of extinction
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!
Get to know 5 of the 300 hundred Australian species at risk of disappearing forever.
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1. Black-flanked Rock-wallaby
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.
The Black-flanked Rock-wallaby is one of 20 mammals that the Australian Government has prioritised resources to support the recovery of the species. More information can be found on the Australian Government website here.
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.
The Eastern Curlew is one of 20 birds that the Australian Government has prioritised resource allocation to support the species recovery effort. More information can be found on the Australian Government website here.
3. Gouldian Finch
The Gouldian Finch is perhaps the most beautiful small bird in the world. The impressive colour of its plumage appealed to bird enthusiasts and hence large number of them were trapped in the wild for the local and international bird trade up until the early 1980s. This along with a parasitic air-sac mite and habitat changes as a result of land clearing and fire are the main causes of their decline.
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. Watch this video on improved burning practices.
4. Northern Quoll
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.
Get to know 10 endan
[JL1] EPBC Status: Endangered
[JL2] Scientific name: Myrmecobius fasciatus
The Numbat is small to medium sized marsupial that is the faunal emblem of Western Australia. They survive in two naturally occurring populations in the southwestern portion of Western Australia. Additional populations in New South Wales and South Australia have been established with successful reintroductions in its historic range.[JL3] Even so, there’s still only about 800 mature individuals that exist[JL4] .
Their termite diet means they need to be active during the day. Which, uniquely makes them one of Australia’s few/only [JL5] diurnal marsupial/s—the opposite of nocturnal.
Due to its size, the Numbat is hunted by many animals like feral cats, foxes, dingoes and birds of prey.
They spend nights hiding in hollow logs or burrows that are too narrow for predators to enter. To further protect themselves from predators at night, Numbats use their very thick-skinned rump to block the entrance. Now that’s using your behind to get ahead.
2. Gouldian Finch
EPBC Status: Endangered
[JL1] Scientific name: Erythrura gouldiae
The impressive colour of its plumage appealed to bird enthusiasts around the world. A large number of them were trapped in the wild for the local and international bird trade up until the early 1980s. The main causes of their decline are changes in habitat as a result of land clearing and fire.
Fire plays a large role in their survival. In the dry season, they’re 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. We’re supporting Indigenous land managers across northern Australia such as Fish River Station. They’re working hard to improve their fire practices to protect the habitat of this stunning beauty.[JL2]
EPBC Status: Endangered
[JL1] Scientific name: Burramys parvus
As temperatures become warmer, animals that depend on cooler habitats may be particularly vulnerable to climate change. One example is the Mountain Pygmy-possum. These tiny possums, not much bigger than mice, are only found in alpine and sub-alpine regions of southern Victoria and around Mt Kosciuszko in Kosciuszko National Park.
Each year they go through a prolonged hibernation over winter of up to 7 months, curled up in nests two to four metres under the snow. They wake occasionally to nibble on their stored food. [JL2] Only emerging in early spring to mate. They spend most of their time inhabiting alpine and subalpine boulderfields and rocky screes. Unlike other possum species, they are usually found close to the ground, where they hunt for their main food sources; Bogong Moths and other invertebrates. They also eat seeds and berries.
There are around 2000 Mountain Pygmy-possums in the wild. Their habitat requirements limit their distribution. This affects their ability to significantly increase their population. Consequently, genetic loss is a key threat to the small populations and the protection of habitat is critical.
5. Black-footed Tree-rat
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.