Australian Endangered Animals

Definitions
When the numbers of a species, or kind, of animals become very low, they are facing a risk of becoming extinct.
Extinct means there are no more left, none have been found for over 50 years.
Critically Endangered indicates that the species is facing an extremely high risk of being extinct very soon.
Endangered means a species is in danger of becoming extinct.
Vulnerable means that the species is not yet classified as endangered, but numbers are continuing to drop.

Australia is one of 17 ‘megadiversity’ countries, which are countries with extremely high levels of biodiversity. Australia has more species (kinds) of mammals, birds and amphibians than nearly any other country, and more reptiles than any other country on earth.

Australia has approximately 2009 non fish vertebrate species (that is, animals with a backbone outside of the fish group). Approximately 1489 species are endemic, which means they are not found anywhere else on the planet: about 83% of our mammals are endemic, 45% of our birds, 89% of our reptiles and 93% of our frogs. Also, about 92% of our plants are endemic… plants of course are an important part of biodiversity, part of the habitat that animal species depend on.

Endangered and Vulnerable Australian Species
In just over 200 years of European settlement about 28 species of Australian mammals have become extinct, 20 of them found no where else in the world. In those 200 years, a total of about 126 plants and animals have vanished. Many more mammals and other animals are in danger of dying out. Australia has more endangered species than any other continent.

Mammals: In Australia there are approximately 312 mammal species, of which 25 are introduced and 19 are presumed extinct (they have not been seen for almost 50 years), which leaves about 268 native species still living, and of those, 210 are endemic. We have 33 endangered mammal species and 21 classified as vulnerable, which means 20% of our native species is threatened.

Birds: There are approximately 793 bird species in Australia, of which 32 are introduced and 21 presumed extinct, which leaves 740 native bird species still living . Of these, 357 are endemic. Australia is ranked 2nd in the world for the number of endemic birds. There are 35 endangered species and 63 classified as vulnerable. This means 13% of our native bird species is threatened.

Reptiles: There are 797 species of reptile, of which 2 are introduced and none are extinct, leaving Australia with 795 living native species. Approximately 708 reptiles are endemic – over a tenth of the world’s reptiles live only in Australia. The number is not fixed as we have more reptiles and more endemic reptiles than any other country, and not all have been listed at this stage. For example, a new species of snake was found in 1998.  We have 12 endangered reptiles and 40 vulnerable species.

Amphibians: Australia has 208 species of amphibian, with 1 introduced (the cane toad), and none extinct, which leaves 207 native amphibians, all frogs. Around 193 species are endemic.  We have 12 endangered species and 3 vulnerable.

Some reasons for Australian animals becoming endangered
Some Australian animals depend on a specific food or habitat, and if these disappear, the animals will not survive.

Many native animals are killed by introduced predators such as cats, dogs and foxes.

Other introduced animals such as cattle, rabbits and deer eat the food needed by native animals and this has also reduced the numbers.

Hoofed grazing animals such as cattle and sheep often crush the burrows of small native animals. Hoofed animals are introduced, not native to Australia, a country in which endemic animals are not hoofed.

Loss of habitat as land is mined or cleared for houses or farms, or forests logged for timber, is also another major cause of the reduction of native animal numbers.

Some examples

The last known thylacine, pictured in Hobart Zoo

Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger is probably extinct, though people stll search for it.
They were marsupials. They were hunted and killed by people who thought the thylacine would kill their chickens and sheep.

The last known thylacine died in Hobart Zoo on 7th September 1936. This day is now known as Threatened Species Day.
The lesser bilby has not been sighted since the 1960s, and is probably extinct. Its relative, the Greater Bilby is now endangered. Once common in central Australian desert areas, the numbers have been reduced by fire and foxes and its habitat affected by grazing cattle and rabbits.

The numbat is endangered because of habitat loss and foxes. Once common across the southern part of the continent, it is now only found in a few forests in southwest Western Australia.

Leadbeater's possum was not seen after 1909 and was thought to be extinct, but the possums were found again in 1961. They are endangered, and are only found in the Victorian central highlands, in old eucalyptus forests that are being logged. The animals nest in tree hollows, and only very old eucalyptus trees have such hollows.
Eastern Barred Bandicoot
Some desert species of bandicoot are extinct and the remaining species are vulnerable. If their habitats change, they will become endangered. One kind is the western barred bandicoot , now only found on a few islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia. The eastern barred bandicoot is now found only in Tasmania and in a few places in Victoria. Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo, is a kangaroo that lives in trees. In Australia it is found only in northeastern Queensland, in highland rainforests. Queensland's rainforests are disappearing habitats, because of land clearing, and these animals are classified as vulnerable.
The Australian sea-lion is vulnerable. These animals were hunted to near extinction. They are the only seal or sea-lion found exclusively in Australia. Another vulnerable marine mammal is the dugong, found grazing on sea grasses in warm shallow
water off the northern coast.


Find out about some other endangered Australian animals:
Corroboree frog...frogs... quokka...quoll...Gouldian finch...possums and pygmy-possums... red-tailed phascogale... northern hairy-nosed wombat...western swamp turtle

One success story! The woylie.

Links to more information about some endangered Australian species
http://fame.org.au/news_resources/endangered_species
http://www.endangered-animals.com.au/
http://www.uen.org/utahlink/activities/view_activity.cgi?activity_id=4783
http://www.readyed.com.au/urls/kids/australia.htm

Conservation work in Australia


If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Australian Endangered Animals [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2002).

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Updated May 2012 ©kidcyber