Fail grade for Australia on saving species

·3-min read

A new report card has given Australia an F for its efforts to help about 1800 species that are sliding towards extinction.

The assessment by WWF-Australia looks at how threatened species are being managed nationally, and in all 151 federal electorates.

Overall, Australia got an F for fail, with the report's authors warning the country's grim reputation as a global extinction leader will worsen unless management efforts are radically improved.

Not a single electorate scored above a D, and most earned an E.

The report, timed to coincide with National Threatened Species Day, assessed four key factors considered crucial to their long-term prospects.

It looked at whether 1803 federally-listed threatened species had recovery plans and funding to support them, the proportion of habitat protected and if species are trending upwards or down.

"When we average all the indicators evenly, 38 federal electorates achieved a D grade and 112 an E," says co-lead author Michelle Ward, a conservation ecologist with WWF and post-research fellow at the University of Queensland.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek's seat of Sydney earned an E grade. The division is home to the imperilled green and golden bell frog, green turtle and grey-headed flying fox.

Former environment minister Sussan Ley's electorate of Farrer on the Murray River also got an E for the collective management of species including the greater glider, koala and malleefowl.

WWF hopes the report cards will help Australians to better understand the plight of threatened plants and animals in their backyards, and push local members to do more to save them.

WWF conservation analyst and report co-author Tracy Rout says just 10 per cent of the 1803 species analysed had a current recovery plan, and only 8 per cent had dedicated federal funding.

"Most worryingly 1539 species - or 85 per cent - had neither a current recovery plan nor dedicated funding," Dr Rout said.

"Every threatened species should have a concise, time-bound recovery plan that outlines ... the actions needed to recover the species. Then, most importantly, those actions must be funded, implemented, and monitored to see if they are working."

The analysis makes it clear Australia is failing to meet its obligations under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

"(It) is required to report on targets to halt extinction and recover species, yet the reporting is conducted in ways that lack the relevant detail and the crisis is often miscommunicated and then not acted upon," the authors say.

Over the last 200 years, Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent.

In the last 10 years, 15 species have been listed as extinct or extinct in the wild including the Bramble Cay melomys, the first mammal extinction in the world caused by climate change.

Ms Plibersek has warned Australia must arrest the wholesale environmental decline detailed in this year's State of the Environment report.

She's promised to rewrite federal laws that don't adequately protect the environment and a new biodiversity credits scheme that will pay Australian landholders to repair and nurture the environment.

The WWF report cards can be viewed at wwf.org.au/mybackyard.