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Australia has world’s worst mammal extinction rate due to habitat loss, predators and climate change

Katrina Sichlau, March 11, 2018 7:15PM News Corp Australia Network

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The Mahogany glider, which is in danger of dying out. media_cameraThe Mahogany glider, which is in danger of dying out.


Reading level: orange

Ever since Europeans first arrived in Australia in 1788, our wild animal population has been steadily* declining*.

Now, more than 200 years later, many of our native animals are facing extinction* — and for some (including the Tasmanian tiger), it’s already too late.

“At least 30 native mammals have become extinct since European settlement — 14 in just the past 50 years,” said Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife boss Ian Darbyshire.

“That gives Australia the unwanted record of having the worst mammal extinction rate in the world.”

This decline in numbers, he said, is due to several factors — including habitat* loss, feral species* and climate change.

“A lot of native species have lost or are losing their habitat because we clear land for farming and we build our cities and towns around the coast,” he said, “and that’s been a lot of the area many of these species have been in,“ Mr Darbyshire said.

Climate change is also having a devastating* impact, with inland areas of our continent drying out and driving some animal populations* to migrate.

“For example, the koala is getting pushed away from the coastal lush forests and driven from the west to the east,” he said.

Mountain Pygmy-Possum media_cameraKeeper Natasha Rose with Nala the Mountain Pygmy-possum at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria. Picture: Ian Currie

On top of this, predator species, such as the fox, have thrived* in Australia.

Mr Darbyshire said the fox is almost entirely responsible for destroying the population of turtles on the lower Murray River. Ninety per cent of turtle eggs in the lower Murray are eaten by foxes, resulting in a serious drop in population.

Other introduced animals, such as cats, cane toads, carp, pigs, goats and rabbits, along with introduced plants and weeds, are also a massive threat to our wildlife.

The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife is working to make more Australians aware of the threats to our native animals.

“If people don’t know about their danger, we could lose hundreds more of our endangered and threatened species,” Mr Darbyshire said. “We need to understand that what is uniquely Australian is under threat.”

Learning what the species around you are, looking after them and planting native vegetation*, are just some of the small things you can do to help.

endangered animals media_cameraThe Eastern Quoll, which is one of 20 Australian native animals under threat of extinction. Picture: Sam Ruttyn


  • steadily: in a continuing way
  • declining: getting smaller
  • extinction: dying out
  • habitat: the natural home or environment of an animal, plant
  • feral species: a wild group of the same animals
  • devastating: highly damaging
  • populations: all the same things that live in a particular place
  • thrived: grown or developed well
  • vegetation: plants



  1. How many native mammals have become extinct in Australia since European settlement? 
  2. Name at least two factors that are responsible for the decline in numbers. 
  3. Which predators are threatening our native mammals? 
  4. It is not only predators that put mammals at risk. Name two other things. 
  5. Which organisation is making Australian more aware of the problem? 

1. What’s the problem?
There are three main reasons given in the article for Australia’s decreasing native animal populations. Identify these three main reasons and write a paragraph explaining each one in your own words.

 The article suggests some things that we can do to help — record what the suggestions are and then see if you can think of some more of your own.

Time: Allow 20 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Science

2. Animal mascots
Choose one of the ‘at risk’ animals from the list. Look at some pictures of your chosen animal and then draw a cartoon version of your animal that you think would make a good mascot for this cause. Your mascot should be appealing to a wide audience and needs a short special message to inform the public about what is happening and/or what they can do to help.

Make a list of possible names for your mascot that use alliteration and then choose your favourite. (Alliteration is when the beginning sound of adjacent or closely connected words is repeated – for example: Bruce the Battler Bandicoot.)

Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Science, Visual Art

With a partner see if you can you identify all the doing words/verbs in this text? Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb- make sure it still makes the context it was taken from.

Try and see if you can replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

Curriculum Links: English, Big Write and VCOP

Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about today’s article. Use lots of adjectives.

Extra Reading in animals