Australia is a huge country, but remains amongst the most undeveloped in the world. A large percentage of its natural grasslands and forests remain unaffected by human activities, and new species are discovered every year as scientists explore the depths of the outback. However, it’s not all good news for Australian animals, with some of them amongst the most endangered in the world. According to the IUCN Red List of endangered species, 86 of Australia’s animal species are considered critically endangered . Here are ten of the most vulnerable to extinction:
A small fish endemic to an isolated group of artesian springs on Edgbaston Station in central Queensland, the red-finned blue-eye has an estimated population size of just 2000-4000 individuals. It is threatened by a species introduced for mosquito control, the gambusia fish. Conservation efforts include relocation and gambusia control .
Inhabiting coastal waters in northern Australia, over fishing and hunting has removed the sawfish from over 95% of its historical range. While the population size is unknown, further research is currently in process to determine the current distribution and the best ways to manage the remaining populations .
The Gilbert’s potoroo is a species which was considered extinct in the wild until 1994, when a small population was found near Albany in Western Australia. They are endemic to this area, and the estimated wild population size is just 35. The potoroo is faced with a number of threats, including forest clearing, predation from foxes and feral cats, and bushfires. Current conservation efforts include an intensive captive breeding and relocation program, and a new population has recently been established on Bald Island off the south coast of Western Australia .
Tasmanian wedge tailed eagle
Endemic to Tasmania, the estimated population numbers for the Tasmanian wedge tailed eagle are around 440 breeding adults. As a top order predator, it is responsible for maintaining a balanced, properly functioning ecosystem. The main threat to the species is their extremely fragile nesting behavior – even slight human disruptions can cause the mother to abandon her nest. Conservation efforts include monitoring the population and raising awareness to prevent disturbance to nesting eagles .
Northern hairy-nosed wombat
This wombat is the largest of three wombat species endemic to Australia, and is currently confined to one small population in Queensland, which is protected by a dingo-proof fence. It has been estimated that there are as few as 100 individuals left in the wild. They have been well protected, and the greatest threats now come from the fact that they exist in a small area, and are therefore vulnerable to natural disasters such as drought, fire, or flooding, disease, and the effects of inbreeding. Current conservation efforts involve protection of the wild population, captive breeding, and research into the possible development of new populations .
Inhabiting Victorian and Tasmanian scrublands, the orange-bellied parrot has come under serious threats from human activities. Despite the fact that the bird was common as recently as the mid-20th century, it is estimated that there are just 50 individuals left in the wild . It is currently threatened by land clearing, invasive species, and predation by feral animals. The Australian Government currently has a conservation plan in place, which involves conserving their breeding and nesting habitat, controlling predators, and managing a captive breeding program .
Armoured mist frog
Very little is known about the armoured mist frog, and scientists don’t actually know why their population has declined so quickly. None of these frogs were sighted between 1994 and 2008, when a small population was discovered in Queensland. It lives within a protected habitat, and little is known about the threats it faces. One suggested threat is chytrid fungal disease, which has affected amphibians worldwide .
Lord Howe Island phasmid
Also called the land lobster, this insect is endemic to the Lord Howe Island group off the east coast of Australia. It has a very limited range, and the population size, although unknown, is extremely small. It is threatened by feral species – namely rats, which feed on the phasmid, and morning glory, an invasive vine which competes with their food source. There is a nationally-approved recovery plan in place, which includes controlling feral species, monitoring wild population numbers, and breeding in captivity .
Noisy scrub bird
Small, noisy, and flightless, the noisy scrub bird is limited to a small range in southwest Australia. There are an estimated 1000 – 1500 mature individuals remaining in the wild, but these are under serious threat from fire – which destroys their nesting habitat – and predation from feral cats and foxes. There have been over 50 years of research and management put into the noisy scrub bird, which means that they are fairly well protected. Current conservation efforts include relocation, feral predator control, and radio tracking to gather information .
Margaret river burrowing crayfish
This is a small crayfish which occupies a tiny range in southwest Australia – estimated to be as little as 2.5 km2. There is no population estimate available, but because of their extremely limited range, it is unlikely that anything more than a few hundred individuals remain in the wild. The main threats to the Margaret River crayfish are habitat loss due to human activity and habitat destruction due to feral pigs. Current conservation efforts include the identification of new habitats for relocation, habitat protection, and public awareness campaigns .