Australia leads the world in many areas. From science to sport; art to architecture; our country ranks amongst the highest. Sadly, so does our extinction rate.
Since modern records began, 67 species of frogs, birds, mammals, reptiles, and other animals have been lost, and one species of fish can only be found in captivity.
Arguably our most famous victim, Thylacinus cynocephalus (Tasmanian Tiger), crossed the extinction line on September 7, 1936.
National Threatened Species Day is held annually on September 7 to reflect on our losses and raise awareness of the efforts to protect our remaining animals from the same fate.
Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 lists 489 species of fauna as threatened. This includes those that are critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable and conservation dependent.
Murdoch University has long championed environmental conservation.
One of our four founding principles is sustainability (alongside equity and social justice, opportunity, and global responsibility). We even named a research institute after one of Australia’s most famous conservationists.
Every day, researchers at the Harry Butler Institute use the latest technology, citizen science and critical thinking to solve the complex issues that lead to extinction; and deliver real-world solutions to protect threatened species, and even see them thrive.
Earlier this year, Director of HBI’s Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Professor Trish Fleming, coauthored a ground-breaking paper that found foxes and cats collectively kill 2.6 billion Australian mammals, birds and reptiles every year.
In February, Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems Director, Professor Alan Lymbrey, brought attention to thousands of freshwater mussels dying in mass events, bringing the “livers of our rivers” as he put it, closer to extinction.
And honours student April Sturm and PhD Candidate Anthony Santoro made headlines in March with their project to save Peth’s iconic Southwestern snake-necked turtles from dwindling population numbers.
Murdoch is home to several experts in marine megafauna, including dugong doyenne Dr Amanda Hodgson, whose innovative tracking technologies have influenced research across Australia into the lives of these secretive sea-cows; and Dr Delphine Chabanne who has identified distinct communities of dolphins living in Perth waters that need separate protection measures from human threats.
In May, Dr Elitza Germanov found large numbers of manta rays in the waters of Komodo National Park in Indonesia, suggesting the area may hold the key to regional recovery of the threatened species.
In WA’s skies fly three species of black cockatoo, all at risk of extinction. Professor Kris Warren and her Black Cockatoo Conservation Management Project team are undertaking innovative health and ecological research to mitigate the birds’ decline due to rapid urban and industrial growth.
While Dr Bethany Jackson has been on the ground in Perth’s hills, to figure out why a population of quenda (south western brown bandicoot) has been contracting mange, and eco-warrior and UNESCO Green Citizen, Dr Grey Coupland, has been planting tiny native forests around Perth to improve biodiversity and attract wildlife.
These are just a few examples of the amazing work happening at Murdoch University to save Australia’s native animals and ensure they are around for generations to come.