Seventeen species, including two birds, two fish, several reptiles and the Lord Howe earthworm, have been added to Australia’s endangered species list.
The saltwater, known for its long-distance journeys, is listed as vulnerable, while the red-tailed godwitbreeding on Christmas Island is listed as endangered.
The Lord Howe earthworm, Daintree rainbowfish, Moroka starfish and seven reptiles, including the Jardine River turtle, Mitchell’s water monitor and northern bluetongue skink, have entered the critically endangered list – the most urgent threat category.
A further four reptiles and one fish were listed in the threatened category and one bird, the Mallee whipbird, was moved from vulnerable to threatened.
The Australian Conservation Foundation nature campaigner Peta Bulling said the list was “a poignant reminder that governments and businesses are not doing enough to protect Australia’s reptiles”.
“Australia is home to more than 10% of the world’s total reptile species. With 93% of our reptiles found nowhere else on Earth, it is critical that we protect our unique scaly wildlife,” she said.
“As conservation efforts often focus on the ‘cute and cuddly’, it’s easy to forget about the unique reptiles that call our big backyard home.”
Bulling noted that the Daintree rainbowfish was only described by Western science in 2018 and was already listed as critically endangered.
She said many of the new threatened species were found in tropical north Queensland, which had been hit by climate-exacerbated extreme weather events.
“[The] Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has set a worthy target of no more extinction,” she said.
“To stop more Australian wildlife becoming extinct, the government must urgently strengthen our national environmental legislation and adequately fund the recovery of threatened species.”
Plibersek is working to overhaul Australia’s environmental laws, with legislation expected to be introduced to parliament next year.
She said eight of the new listings, including the rainbow trout, the Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko and the Jardine River turtle, are threatened by illegal wildlife trade.
Speaking at a media conference at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo on Thursday, Plibersek said the federal and New South Wales governments had stepped up efforts to combat the trade more quickly and effectively, while also taking better care of the species affected by it. .
Plibersek said teams had been established in Sydney and Melbourne to work with the Taronga Conservation Society and security screening company Rapiscan Systems to use emerging technology to track and care for smuggled wildlife.
“Illegal trade and wildlife crime are rapidly becoming a threat to many of our species that are already at risk of extinction,” she said.
“In fact, a single poaching could drive the critically endangered Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko to extinction in the wild.
“We need to eliminate this horrific trade, which sees our native animals captured in the Aussie outback, bound and gagged, and sent overseas to be sold.”
Additional bird species are expected to be added to the list, or their conservation status upgraded, in the coming days. Three bird species are also expected to have their conservation status downgraded.