Current Threats to Wildlife

Threats include:

  • Climate change
  • Vegetation clearing
  • Feral animals and weeds
  • Inappropriate mining
  • Over-fishing
  • Wildlife trafficking
  • Unusually severe natural events: fire, flood, drought etc. 


Climate change

There are a number of uncertainties about the details, and a lot of hype and mis-understanding, but the evidence for climate change at a more rapid rate than ever before seems over-whelming and alarming, and whatever its causes this will have major effects on wildlife, and on tourism. Whatever effects changes in the sun’s activity may also produce, the evidence for human-induced climate change is also very strong, and the actions needed to reduce it also have other environmental benefits.

Visit Wildlife Tourism Australia’s web page: Climate change, wildlife and tourism 

Also see


Vegetation clearing

This is still one of the biggest threats to wildlife throughout the world, including Australia, and is still continuing at a high rate,esepcially  affecting animals that need:

  • a particular habitat type  which is now scarce
  • large home ranges
  • particular resources (e.g. hollow branches in mature trees, special food items)
  • to move between habitat types that are no longer adjacent
  • to migrate, and can’t fly long distances or traverse open spaces

When a forest is cleared or a marsh drained, the animals generally cannot simply move into another locality.  Even if suitable habitat exists it may not be reachable or is vey likely to already have inhabitants that will not tolerate the newcomers.

See (external links):


Feral animals and weeds

Australia has had one of the highest rates of mammal extinction of any country in the past couple of centuries.  Foxes (introduced so gentlemen could hunt them!) and cats (pets to some extent but especially strays and their progeny, which are now very numerous just about everywhere) have been responsible for some of this, and are continuing to prey on small mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs throughout much of Australia. Rabbits have vastly altered the landscapes many regions, breeding copiously in good seasons and then eating just about everything insight when the next drought comes, even including young tree saplings. Cane toads were brought here to control beetles in sugarcane fields, which they’re not very good at, and many native animals are fatally poisoned by eating them. Over-stockingof hoofed animals not only reduces vegetation that they eat, but can lead to severe trampling and subsequent erosion.

See (external link)


Inappropriate Mining

Australia needs mining, both for the minerals and for the economy in general, but there are many who consider we do not need to mine all our resources as rapidly as we appear to be doing, and the unprecedented increase in mining activities across the country is causing concern for environmental matters, including wildlife conservation, in many areas.

Rehabilitation of vegetation does not ensure a return  to original habitat, as evidenced by research in Far North Queensland: (external link)

Coal Seam Gas

Potential threats to wildlife are posed by a massive expansion of the coal seam gas industry include:

  1. Extensive habitat clearing and fragmentation
  2. Where these pipelines are being constructed in other regions, thousands of animals have fallen into the trenches.
  3. Fracking (extraction of coal seam gas by hydraulic fracturing) uses enormous quantities of water, in a continent of low and unpredictable rainfall –  a danger for agriculture as well as native ecosystems).
  4. Possible pollution of our underground water and water catchments –  a grave concern for wildlife, livestock and the human population.

One of the worrying aspects is the rush with which CSG exploration has been spreading throughout Australia without a similar rush into research on its potential environmental impacts.

There are  also threatened ecosystems and habitats of threatened animals being cleared for open cut coal mining in various areas.

See more details here: fracking,  coal mining and Australia’s wildlife (WTA page)



Some areas have now been declared as marine parks, but is this enough?


Illegal wildlife trafficking

A multi-million dollar industry, biggest illegal trade after people smuggling and drug smuggling.


Illegal wildlife trafficking: Attacking on All Fronts (report on a Wildlife Tourism Australia workshop in 2017). Downloadable pdf available here.


Unusually severe natural events: fire, flood, drought etc. 

Australia has always been known for frequent bushfires and unpredictable droughts and floods.  Our wildlife generally adapts, but in regions of highly fragmented habitat (where animals may have nowhere to escape to) an during excessively long droughts or heatwaves or very intense fires, many animals can be in danger during the event and find themselves with inadequate food our shelter afterwards.


Effects and solutions can be complex. Different species respond differently. A certain frequency of fire is needed for some (e.g. ground parrot, emu wren)

Some fire protection policies make sense for agriculture but less so for wildlife. (Antechinus can survive after-effects of fire by going into torpor and not needing to forage for a few days – not sure how well it works for females with a litter of young though) (includes vulnerability of Antechinus to fire)

Also see



Fruitbats are very susceptible to prolonged high temperatures


Prolonged drought

Australia often suffers drought,  and well-meaning provision of too much water can backfire, giving the advantage to common species over those that are more drought adapted

Unusually prolonged droughts however can certainly impact wildlife, which may then need our assistance


Some floods are needed by wildlife

Sometimes severe flooding however, especially in fragmented habitats can endanger some animals.

It is true that animals can often move uphill to avoid floods, but sometimes they are faced with landscapes the can”easily move through – e.g. bare cattle pastures can be challenging for small creatures that rarely leave shelter –  an flash floods of high magnitude along watercourses can remove most of the trees or keep much of the adjacent land under water for days or weeks, making it difficult for animals to turn to their home ranges.


Also see:

Wildlife Tourism Australia blog entries on conservation and welfare 



  1. Is Australia having problems with the salt water crocs because of the flooding?

  2. why do the tourist hate some animals and not others pleas write back as soon as possible

  3. Mining, oil-drilling, fracking and quarrying seem to be potential threats to wildlife habitat in many parts of Australia right now (as in other countries).

  4. Yes, while so many are still debating whether climate change is happening we are losing a lot of opportunity to plan for future changes, such as provide additional habitat areas and connectivity between them.

    There are just so many invertebrates they are so often dismissed as too hard to even contemplate, but as you say, many are essential, and since we are discovering new, un-named ones all the time, we know almost nothing about their ecological roles, and these roles are many and varied, from breaking down decomposing material to controlling other invertebrate numbers, to pollination and (mainly ants) seed dispersal.

    There are many chains of dependency. The highly-endangered Australian fritillary butterfly depends on arrowhead violets in its caterpillar stage, the range of which has severely shrunk, and these are pollinated by various other butterflies such as the common grass yellow (which fortunately is still common). The Richmond birdwing butterfly, a threatened species, depends on a vine which in turn depends on a small gnat for pollination, and the gnat in turn depends on clear mountain streams for its larval stage. There are various rainforest plants pollinated only by certain species of beetle or wasp … many examples we already know about and doubtless many more awaiting discovery.

  5. Climate change is going to have a huge impact on wildlife. While community groups have been lobbying for government action on climate change for 30 years, its only in the last few years that governments have started talking about it, and they are even more reluctant to actually take any firm action to mitigate it. Scientists are now saying that “10 years ago when we predicted tidal increases of half a meter, we really meant two meters, but we were too frightened to say that at the time”. What all the scientists agree on is that Australia, and our wildlife, will be impacted more that any other country in the world. There is no doubt Climate Change will have a devastating impact on many of our native species.

    There are around 1400 endangered plant and animal species in Australia, and the sad reality is that we will lose many of them to Climate Change, thru shrinking and changing habitat, and lack of escape corridors. So now, while governments are talking about endangered species, there is very little they have actually done to protect these species, such as extending their habitat. In some National Parks where endangered species live, they are still dropping 1080, which of course has a devastating impact on the quolls and other animals that live there.

    Shark nets, balloons, lack of corridors, road kills, Permits to kill wildlife, freeway and housing expansion thru sensitive habitat, are all contributing to the loss of many endangered species. But what about the species that are sometimes considered as “common” but are really not? Ringtail possums, red kangaroos, dingo the native dog, many reptiles, etc etc etc.

    And what about invertebrates, the creatures without backbones? Nobody cares about them, and how Climate Change will affect them. Spiders, worms, native bees, etc. If we lose the wasp that polinates the donkey orchids, we lose the orchid. If we lose the termites and ants, we lose the echidna. If we lose the bats that polinate the rainforests, we lose rainforest plant species, that may provide habitat or food for other animal species. The sad reality is that Governments dont care about the wildlife that many tourism ventures depend on, and they are not listening to any calls to protect it.


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