Kimberley could lose 45 species in 20 years

By AAP with AG Staff 24 March 2011
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A staggering number of species in this Western Australian wilderness are at threat if action is not taken.

UP TO 45 NATIVE species in Western Australia’s Kimberley region will die out within 20 years if no action is taken, a CSIRO-led study says. It’s called for an immediate cash injection of $95 million to save creatures, including the golden bandicoot, the scaly-tailed possum and the monjon rock wallaby from extinction.

“We’re in the midst of an extinction event in Australia and the north
has been the last stronghold for many native species of wildlife,” says
Dr Tara Martin, a CSIRO ecologist at the University of Queensland and
co-author of the report.
“Thirty per cent of the threatened species identified in our study are
unique to the Kimberley region, while others, like the golden bandicoot,
have already disappeared elsewhere in the country,” she told Australian
. “The Kimberley is really their last chance on earth.”

Last stronghold

The study – announced on Wednesday at a Canberra event organised by the
Wilderness Society, who also commissioned the report – goes on to urge
all tiers of government to open their wallets.

At the moment, just $20 million a year is spent on conservation efforts in the Kimberley, which is home to an assortment of threatened species. But the report says even if that money was spent properly, the region would still lose some 31 native animals. The numbers of many more birds, reptiles and mammals, such as the spotted tree monitor and the western chestnut mouse, would dwindle.

The report says that controlling feral cats is the best cost-effective measure to prevent species decline: this would be a three-pronged attack, including education, research and an end to dingo baiting. But it conceded the “feasibility of success” was low. The next best thing would be to effectively manage the threats of fire and foreign herbivores, which would see improvements for almost all wildlife species.

Business plan for nature

“This report is like a business plan for nature,” co-author Professor Hugh Possingham says. “Our analysis shows the best bang for the buck and identifies not just the best things to do but what we can’t afford not to do.”

About $40 million would be needed annually in the Kimberley to protect its species, as well as boost plant life, help the climate and conserve indigenous land.

“This investment is great value,” says Hugh, also based at the University of Queensland. “We can save some of Australia’s most iconic mammals and birds at a cost of only about $1 million, per species, per year.”

The Priority Threat Management to Protect Kimberley Wildlife report relied heavily on expert feedback because of a lack of available data on certain species and costs. It recommended getting other social, economic and cultural perspectives to round out a more comprehensive action plan.

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