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Threatened Species Day, what does it mean?

September 7, 2020

By Kim Stephenson

Embarrassingly, it took last Saturday’s episode of Gardening Australia to remind me Monday 7th September is Threatened Species Day! 

I know what Threatened Species Day means to my family and me, one aspect being how many threatened species are further at risk from development destruction. Still, it made me think, what do other people know about endangered species? What would that term mean to the average Australian? So here goes my amateur conservationist attempt at Threatened Species 101: A Crash Course. 

What is a threatened species? 

Any Australian native flora or fauna species or ecological community (i.e. Murray/Darling Basin) which reaches a certain threshold of numbers in existence in the wild with factors including the rate and ability of propagation or recovery, can be classified as ‘threatened’. 

Threatened species are listed under state, and or, federal law. Some species may be listed as ‘threatened’ in NSW, but considered abundant in Victoria, may be listed in Queensland but prolific around the country. 

There are different classifications of ‘threatened species’. In order from lowest to highest (most urgent) are as follows:

 Conservation dependent 

 Vulnerable

 Endangered

 Critically Endangered

 Extinct in the wild

 Extinct 

 What happens when a species or ecological community is listed as threatened? 

The appropriate level of government along with relevant government departments, non-government stakeholders, official community groups and subject matter experts will form either one or a combination of a recovery plan, a threat abatement plan or conservation advice. These would be funded by the relevant government, whether state or federal. 

It is then listed under its appropriate sub-classification with all information pertaining to the species including name, genus (family gene pool), location, history, any written reports or scientific data - authors name and credentials - a picture, links to recovery plans and which parts of the relevant legislation the species has been listed and protected. 

How does a species become listed? 

A subject matter expert, usually an involved and experienced community member or NPWS, or in NSW an Office of Environment and Heritage employee, would conduct multiple on-site data collections. The information collected may include physical numbers over each season, changes in habitat etc., record the information on the states GPS wildlife tracking programme and if needed, would begin the arduous process of writing a submission to have the species listed as threatened. This entire process, including outcomes, can take years. Of course, the irony is a species could become critically endangered from being initially vulnerable by the time the species is listed, due to a barrage of reckless development such as we see here in the Shoalhaven. 

So, what if a species is ‘threatened’? 

At the risk of preaching to the choir, every species of native flora and fauna, each ecological community including foreshores, rivers, swamps and escarpments, are completely intertwined with humans - our survival dependant on theirs. Each chink in the armour weakens our strength and the biodiversity of which we owe our sustainability and sustenance. 

This Threatened Species Day, you may like to check out Shoalhaven’s 153 threatened flora and fauna species, or the 16 endangered ecological communities.; or, take a look at the NSW Biodiversity and Conservation Act, or the federal EPBC (Environmental Protection Biodiversity and Conservation) Act. The EPBC Act is particularly important right now, as the LNP are currently attempting to undermine it, despite the fact it was John Howard who originally enacted the protections.

Our precious biodiversity is worth preserving. There are many community organisations you can join who are actively pursuing conservation goals throughout the south coast. Birdlife Shoalhaven, Jervis Bay Regional Alliance, National Parks Association, Manyana Matters, Lake Wollumboola Protection Association, Bomaderry Creek Working Bee, to name a few just in the Shoalhaven. Get involved and get knowledgeable. Our wildlife is worth it.

Happy Threatened Species Day! 

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