Biodiversity Month, held every September, is an opportunity to celebrate Australia’s spectacular native flora and fauna. However, it’s also a stark reminder of our ~1,800 native plant and animal species currently facing extinction.
Of these, some 100 are mammals are on the brink of disappearing forever. Unless we take urgent action, they are set to join the 10 per cent of Australia’s mammal species to have gone extinct since European settlement.
This is the worst rate of recent mammal extinctions in the world, but what has brough us to this point? Key drivers include habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, the impact of feral herbivores and other invasive species, altered fire regimes, and – above all – predation by feral cats and foxes.
But there is hope.
Against all odds, populations of some species cling to survival by a thread. Protected from feral predators by specially designed conservation fences they’ve been shown to thrive; others benefit from science-informed conservation land management aimed at tackling key threats like wildfires, weeds and feral herbivores.
The data is clear: it’s not too late to reverse Australia’s extinction rate – but the window of opportunity is closing.
With your help we can not only halt Australia’s mammal extinctions, we can successfully restore wild, self-sustaining populations of threatened and locally-extinct wildlife back to the Australian landscape.
Here’s 10 examples of the incredible impact your support is having in the field, helping to pull our most vulnerable native species back from the brink of extinction.
1. Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) | Vulnerable
Bilbies were once widespread across arid and semi-arid Australia, occupying around 70 per cent of the continent. Cats and foxes have had a catastrophic impact on the species, which has disappeared from over 80 per cent of its former range.
We protect Bilbies in large feral predator-free areas at our Scotia, Yookamurra and Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuaries, and at Mallee Cliffs and Pilliga national parks, in partnership with the NSW Government under its Saving Our Species program.
Coming up, we will soon be establishing a population at our Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary. Within a decade, we aim to protect more than 5,000 Bilbies.
2. Mala / Rufous Hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) | Endangered
Mala were once widespread and abundant across much of semi-arid Australia, but sadly went extinct in the wild in the 90s. Today, Mala survive only on one feral predator-free island and behind conservation fences.
We’ve returned Mala back to the wild at our Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in central Australia. We recently moved the last of Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary’s ‘insurance’ Mala back to this historic homeland, bringing us one step closer to our goal of establishing a wild, self-sustaining and genetically diverse population here. Over time, as the feral-free area at Newhaven expands, we estimate the property will be home to 18,000 wild Mala.
3. Red-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura) | Vulnerable
Red-tailed Phascogales were once found throughout much of arid and semi-arid Australia, but are now extinct across 99 per cent of their former range, restricted to remnant patches of bushland in south-west WA. It is unknown how many still exist.
We’ve successfully reintroduced the species to our Newhaven and Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuaries, and have plans to do the same at Mallee Cliffs National Park, in partnership with the NSW Government under its Saving Our Species program.
4. Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) | Endangered
Numbats were once found across much of arid and semi-arid southern Australia, but today only two naturally occurring populations remain, both in south-west WA.
We protect at least 30 per cent of the entire Numbat population within large, feral predator-free fenced areas at our Scotia, Yookamurra and Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuaries. Work is underway to also establish new populations at Mallee Cliffs National Park and at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary.
5. Bridled Nailtail Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) | Endangered
The Bridled Nailtail Wallaby was believed to be extinct for much of the 20th century, until the chance discovery of a surviving population in 1973.
AWC subsequently reintroduced a population to our Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary in 2005, followed by the Pilliga in 2019, in partnership with the NSW Government under its Saving Our Species program. Under the same partnership, plans are now underway to reintroduce the species to Mallee Cliffs National Park.
6. Western Quoll / Chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii) | Vulnerable
Western Quolls were once present in a wide variety of habitats across nearly 70 per cent of the Australian mainland. They are now found only in in the south-western corner of WA, where their distribution is patchy.
We currently protect this species at our Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary. Coming up, we have plans to return them to our Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as Mallee Cliffs and Pilliga national parks, in partnership with the NSW Government under its Saving Our Species program.
7. Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) | Endangered
The Northern Quoll formerly occurred across northern Australia from WA to south-east Queensland. Its distribution has declined dramatically, especially after the arrival of the cane toad.
We protect three populations of Northern Quoll and their habitats on several of our northern sanctuaries, where AWC ecologists are conducting a number of research projects aimed at better understanding their conservation requirements and the impact of cane toads.
8. Kangaroo Island Dunnart (Sminthopsis aitkeni) | Endangered
Extensive wildfires in late 2019 and early 2020 burnt 95 per cent of the (already endangered) Kangaroo Island Dunnart’s habitat, bringing the species dangerously close to extinction.
In response, we’ve been working with local landholders and conservation organisation, Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, to protect one of the surviving populations. The initial stage of the project – removing feral predators and enclosing 13.8 hectares of critical refuge – was completed in February 2020.
Work is now underway to expand this safe haven to 370 hectares, protecting a whole range of bushfire-affected threatened species.
9. Greater Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus conditor) | Vulnerable
Greater Stick-nest Rats were driven to extinction on mainland Australia, clinging to survival in a single population on the Franklin Islands, South Australia. A captive breeding program was established in 1985, and the species was subsequently released on a number of offshore islands.
As numbers have steadily built up, Greater Stick-nest Rats have been reintroduced to several mainland predator-free fenced areas – including at our Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary.
Very soon, the species will be restored to Mallee Cliffs National Park, in partnership with the NSW Government under its Saving Our Species program.
10. Woylie / Brush-tailed Bettong (Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi) | Endangered
Woylies were once abundant across much of Australia but have been brought close to extinction, mainly due to predation by feral cats and foxes. Remnant populations persisted in south-west WA, but in the last two decades these have crashed from an estimated 200,000 individuals to fewer than 20,000 individuals.
We protect Woylies across four of our wildlife sanctuaries – Karakamia, Scotia, Yookamurra and Mt Gibson. AWC monitoring and research continues to confirm that the species is successfully breeding within these feral predator-free areas.
Coming up, we plan to reintroduce Woylies to our Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as to Mallee Cliffs and Pilliga national parks, in partnership with the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program.
How can you help?
With your support, the AWC conservation model of science-led private land management – delivered both alone and in partnership across more than 6.5 million hectares – continues to deliver positive conservation outcomes for Australia’s most at-risk mammal species.
But we cannot fulfil our mission alone. Please click the link below to explore our conservation projects and find out more about donating to AWC.