Threatened species list ballooned in 2023, data shows

Australia’s list of imperilled species ballooned in 2023, with a record number of new plants, animals and ecosystems deemed in danger of extinction.

The Australian Conservation Foundation says 144 new entries were added last year, including reptiles, birds, fish and frogs.

The spike reflects federal government efforts to clear a backlog of listings that should have happened sooner.

But the more sinister story is an enduring lack of action on key threats including alarming rates of habitat destruction, ACF says.

“In the last year, 10,426 hectares of habitat destruction was approved under Australia’s national nature laws – the equivalent to clearing the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground 5,000 times over,” nature campaigner Peta Bulling says.

Even so, she says that’s likely the tip of the iceberg given how much clearing happens illegally, or without being assessed under federal environment laws.

“The fact species are being listed as threatened is not the problem. Many were nominated years ago. But now the list better reflects the reality for Australia’s threatened plants and animals.”

A total of 2212 species and ecosystems are now listed under federal laws as being threatened with extinction.

Among those added last year is the critically endangered Canberra grassland earless dragon.

ACF says it’s facing what could be an existential threat from a proposed road development at the city’s airport.

In 2019, a scientific review that found all of Australia’s grassland earless dragons, including the Canberra subspecies, are in serous strife.

But it took four years for that to be reflected in federal laws.

“We should have been taking urgent action to recover these populations and that four-year delay has set us back in what is really a critical juncture for the survival of this species,” Ms Bulling says.

The road development is yet to receive federal approval and ACF hopes it will be canned, given the Canberra dragon is a priority species under the government’s threatened species action plan.

Ms Bulling says the overhaul of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act must address the pressing issue habitat destruction.

“We urge Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to make sure the reform of the national environment law deals with the problem of habitat destruction, which keeps pushing unique and much-loved Australian species towards extinction.”


Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)


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