Threats considered on this page include:
- Climate change
- Vegetation clearing
- Feral animals and weeds
- Inappropriate mining
- Wildlife trafficking
- Unusually severe natural events: fire, flood, drought etc.
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
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):
- pdf: A 2017 scientific report on land clearing in Queensland https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/wildlife/threatened-species/documents/land-clearing-impacts-threatened-species.pdf
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.
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: http://www.cairns.com.au/article/2012/03/26/211971_local-news.html (external link)
Coal Seam Gas
Potential threats to wildlife are posed by a massive expansion of the coal seam gas industry include:
- Extensive habitat clearing and fragmentation
- Where these pipelines are being constructed in other regions, thousands of animals have fallen into the trenches.
- 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).
- 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.
https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2015/06/10/4251646.htm (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)
http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/88218-conservation-advice-11052018.pdf. (includes vulnerability of Antechinus to fire)
Fruitbats are very susceptible to prolonged high temperatures
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.
Wildlife Tourism Australia blog entries on conservation and welfare