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NSW announces ambitious ’zero extinctions’ target

David Mills, September 7, 2021 7:00PM News Corp Australia Network

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While the NSW Bushfire Inquiry found fires compounded the koalas' loss of habitat, the future of the species in NSW is also threatened by continued logging, mining, land clearing, and urban development. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraWhile the NSW Bushfire Inquiry found fires compounded the koalas' loss of habitat, the future of the species in NSW is also threatened by continued logging, mining, land clearing, and urban development. Picture: Getty Images

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The koala, the brush-tailed wallaby and 90 other species will be given the highest possible protection status in NSW – equal to that given to the Wollemi pine – under an ambitious* new ‘zero extinctions’ policy unveiled Tuesday by the state’s Environment Minister Matt Kean.

“Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world and today in NSW, on Threatened Species Day, we say no more,” Kean said.

“Just as we have a net zero emissions target, we now also have a target of zero extinctions for our national parks, and are aiming to improve and stabilise the on-park trajectory* of threatened species by 2030.”

There are 221 sites in national parks across NSW that will be named Assets of Intergenerational* Significance (AIS) – a designation* Kean called “a game-changer for threatened species”.

media_cameraNew protections are being announced for 221 sites in NSW, including 15 known to be koala strongholds. Picture: Australian Reptile Park

The AIS status “triggers the strongest possible legal protections – mandating* conservation plans, targeted feral animal control, bespoke* fire management and monitoring and reporting,” he said.

The AIS provisions had been legislated following the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, and Kean said the 221 new areas given the designation were “home to species at risk from feral animals, bushfire and climate change”.

Of the 92 species to be given the additional protection, 65 are plants, including the Nightcap Oak, of which just 125 individuals are known to remain in the Nightcap Range, north of Lismore.

There are 27 animal species listed, including 13 mammals, four birds, seven frogs and three reptiles.

Of the 221 AIS sites in national parks, 15 are koala strongholds*, and seven will protect the brush-tailed rock wallaby. One population of the brush-tailed rock-wallaby in the Warrambungles is now down to less than 10 individuals.

media_cameraSeven sites will be granted the new designation in NSW in order to better protect the brushed-tailed rock wallaby. Picture: Aussie Ark

Sydney University wildlife expert Professor Chris Dickman said there were “many hundreds” of native plants and animals on the brink of extinction in NSW, but up-to-date data for many species was poor.

“We’ve not been able to complete surveys since the bushfires,” he said. “People are desperate to get out there and would have done so, but have been prevented from going out in the field because of the pandemic,” he said.

Koala numbers had been coming down over the past few decades because of habitat loss, Professor Dickman said, but it was still possible to stop the decline.

Since the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020, NSW had taken a stronger stance on species protection, but it was “more difficult to discern what’s going on in other states,” Professor Dickman said.

media_cameraDr Kita Ashman, threatened species and climate adaptation ecologist with WWF Australia.

While Professor Dickman said Victoria’s ongoing logging in the central highlands was destroying koala habitat, Dr Kita Ashman from WWF Australia said koalas were actually overabundant in a few areas in Victoria right now, but current modelling showed the iconic marsupial could become extinct in NSW by 2050.

Native species were coming under pressure because of lower or more unpredictable rainfall, more frequent and extreme heat events, and more severe bushfires, all of which were effects of climate change, Dr Ashman said.

GLOSSARY

  • ambitious: bold, pioneering, challenging
  • trajectory: the course, route or path taken
  • intergenerational: relating to, involving or affecting multiple generations
  • designation: name, label, specification, special status
  • mandating: giving authority for something to happen
  • bespoke: customised, created or altered to suit
  • strongholds: refuge, safe place, established base

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How many species will be given the additional protection?
  2. How many sites will be covered by the NSW legislation?
  3. What does AIS stand for?
  4. Why does Professor Dickman say that up-to-date data is poor?
  5. Native species are coming under pressure due to what additional factors besides logging?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Develop an AIS logo
AIS stands for Assets of Intergenerational Significance and gives extra protection for any plant and animal species that might be threatened. Read about the plants and animals that have been granted this AIS status and design a logo to represent this new legislation.

Your logo should include the acronym ‘AIS’ and your symbols should represent what the AIS stands for – which is protection to all these plant and animal species that are vulnerable or at risk of extinction.

Share your logo with some classmates.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: the Arts; English; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Design and illustrate a ‘Save the Koala’ poster, outlining the current threats to the species and how it needs our help.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
Save our threatened species
The thought of living in Australia without some of our most iconic animals is devastating. Create a poster proposing all states add more protections to Australian threatened species. Include some pictures, facts and emotive language to convince everyone to take a stand.

Make sure you organise your work so it is clear and easy to read. Check it makes sense by reading it out in front of a mirror as if you were presenting at assembly.

Extra Reading in animals