The Mulgara, a seriously cute looking but also a ferocious predator that sucks the brains out of its prey. Picture: Ayesha Tulloch, University of Sydney
The Mulgara, a seriously cute looking but also a ferocious predator that sucks the brains out of its prey. Picture: Ayesha Tulloch, University of Sydney

Australia’s extinction crisis

THEY'RE critters you might never have come across but that doesn't mean they still don't need our protection.

Take the mulgara, for example, a cute looking but ferocious predator found in arid Australia that sucks the brains out of its prey.

They help maintain health and diversity in animal populations but are currently listed as nationally vulnerable.

Bush Heritage Australia is calling for better protection for 'keystone and indicator species' across the country, such as this small Queensland-based carnivore, as well as the more commonly know greater bilby of Western Australia or the lesser known spider orchid in Victoria.

Protecting their populations will allow hundreds of our native species to thrive.

Most people wouldn’t have heard of this little mulgara but Bush Heritage has listed it as a key species we need to protect. Picture: Ayesha Tulloch, University of Sydney
Most people wouldn’t have heard of this little mulgara but Bush Heritage has listed it as a key species we need to protect. Picture: Ayesha Tulloch, University of Sydney

 

The greater bilby is listed as a vulnerable keystone species, with its close relative the lesser bilby made extinct in the 1950s. It’s important for the ecosystem because of the pits it creates that allow for water penetration. Picture: Bruce Thomson
The greater bilby is listed as a vulnerable keystone species, with its close relative the lesser bilby made extinct in the 1950s. It’s important for the ecosystem because of the pits it creates that allow for water penetration. Picture: Bruce Thomson

The other species in the list of five include the brolga, a wetland crane in New South Wales, and the honey-possum found in WA.

A recent national survey by Bush Heritage has revealed that more than two-thirds of Australians believe our extinction crisis will worsen but the good news is more than half

believe we can reverse the damage done to our environment.

Bush Heritage has identified five species around the country that are intrinsic to their landscape.

By protecting and restoring their habitats, and minimising the threats they face, hundreds of other species will be prevented from edging closer to extinction.

The name 'keystone species' comes from a reference to a central stone that keeps an arch from crumbling.

In other words, an ecosystem can crumble if you remove a particular species from the landscape.

Indicator species are like a canary in the coalmine - if they disappear, we know that something is seriously wrong with that habitat's health.

 

These small, stunning flowers often go unseen and can disappear in a landscape before we even realise. The red cross spider orchid is listed as vulnerable. Picture: Stuart Mill
These small, stunning flowers often go unseen and can disappear in a landscape before we even realise. The red cross spider orchid is listed as vulnerable. Picture: Stuart Mill

 

With their elaborate courtship dance, brolgas are one of Australia’s most iconic birds. They rely on wetlands and indicate our effectiveness in water management. Picture: Ross Bray
With their elaborate courtship dance, brolgas are one of Australia’s most iconic birds. They rely on wetlands and indicate our effectiveness in water management. Picture: Ross Bray

Dr Rebecca Spindler said this was a far smarter and more effective approach to conservation.

"When it comes to stemming the nation's extinction rate, the old healthcare adage 'prevention is better than cure' is equally applicable," she said.

"We shouldn't be waiting for the bellwether signal that a species is listed as endangered before acting; we need to be protecting habitat well before that stage.

"It will cost less money, and improve success rates if we aim to follow this strategy."

Australia's threatened species list is growing, with our country among seven nations carrying more than half of all global species loss.

Bush Heritage is hoping to invest more than $2.2 million over the next 12 months to protect the habitats of these species, and is calling on the public for their support and donations.

They are also undertaking several other key conservation projects this year including fire management, feral control, revegetation, weed control and managing grazing pressure.



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