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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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    Australia lists small wallaby among new endangered species

    SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia listed a small wallaby and the grey snake among 15 new threatened species yesterday as it launched a zero-extinction plan for its unique wildlife.

    Many of Australia’s species are clinging to existence, their habitats shrinking from human activity and extreme events such as the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, wildlife groups said.

    Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government announced a new 10-year scheme to try and halt the slide into extinction of 110 “priority species” and shield 20 “priority places” from further degradation.

    It aims to prevent any new extinctions of plants and animals while conserving at least 30 per cent of Australia’s land mass.

    Wildlife groups blame Australia’s poor record in protecting its unique species largely on habitat destruction, accelerated by global warming and resulting extreme weather.

    The Black Summer fires burned through 5.8 million hectares in eastern Australia and killed or displaced an estimated one to two billion animals.

    “The Black Summer bushfires in particular have seen devastating results for many species.

    We are determined to give wildlife a better chance,” said Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek.

    File photo shows a dehydrated and injured koala receiving treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital after it was rescued from a bushfire in Port Macquarie. PHOTO: AFP
    File photo shows rescuers attempting to move a stranded whale to open water at Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania of Australia. PHOTO: AP

    “Listing species as threatened under national environment law is a critical step in protecting the species and habitats in need of urgent help,” the minister said.

    Australia’s attempts to protect its wildlife had not worked so far, she added. “Australia is the mammal extinction capital of the world.”

    Among the 15 plants and animals listed as threatened are the vulnerable small parma wallaby, which faces danger from bushfires and predators, the endangered mildly venomous grey snake of Queensland, and the endangered small wingless matchstick grasshopper, which is sensitive to drought and bushfires.

    Wildlife groups welcomed the government’s goal of preventing any new plant or animal extinctions.

    The objective “is ambitious but essential if future generations of Australians are to see animals like koalas, mountain pygmy possums, greater gliders and gang gang cockatoos”, said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature programme manager Basha Stasak.

    Stasak called on the government to strengthen national environment law, saying it failed to protect animals, plants and ecosystems.

    Scientists had estimated the cost of tackling Australia’s “extinction crisis” at AUD1.69 billion (USD1 billion) a year, Stasak said.

    A five-yearly State of the Environment report in July painted a picture of wildlife devastation. It cited the clearing of millions of hectares of primary forest and mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef caused by marine heatwaves.

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