But after being around for thousands of years, some of our amazing animals are finding it hard to survive in the modern world. Read on to find our more, including what you can do to help.
First, conservation categories explained
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is widely accepted as the leading authority on environment and sustainable development. To help explain these animal issues, IUCN has created the following categories to describe species that are in trouble:
- Vulnerable – this is bad; it means that a species faces a high risk of extinction in the medium future.
- Endangered – this is very bad; the species is at a very high risk of extinction in the near future.
- Critically endangered – this is very, very bad; the species is at extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. It is one step away from extinction in the wild.
When governments or organisations say something is ‘threatened’ or ‘rare’ it generally means it falls into one of the above categories.
Here in Australia…
Depending on where you look, a species’ conservation status may vary, which can get a bit confusing. This is due to a combination of things, including the fact that:
- Australia is so big – animal populations can vary a lot over 7.7 million square kilometres.
- Australia has state and federal governments that have their own classification systems and laws.
- People don’t always agree with each other.
Below are examples of some well-loved Aussie animals that are widely accepted as having problems.
This little guy used to live all over Australia but is now presumed to be extinct in NSW, classed as endangered in Queensland, threatened in NT, rare in WA and vulnerable in SA. Overall, the federal government and the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species class the greater bilby as vulnerable.
The reason? The biggest threat to the bilby population is thought to be non-native species. Feral cats and foxes are just too fast for bilbies and easily catch and kill them. Also rabbits compete for their food and burrowing space.
The reason? The wild Tasmanian devil population is under threat from a rare condition called devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), which is passed from devil to devil through close contact. Just to make things worse, Tasmanian devils are also hard to see at night and often get hit by cars.
Although there are larger populations in parts of Victoria like Cape Otway, the koala population is in decline, particularly in NSW and Queensland where it is classed as vulnerable. The federal government currently classes the combined koala population of NSW, ACT and Queensland as vulnerable.
The reason? The main cause of the reduction in koala numbers is thought to be the loss and fragmentation of their habitat and food – eucalyptus trees and leaves. Koalas are also at risk of being hit by cars and attacked by dogs.
What can I do?
Great question! It’s easy to feel a bit helpless, but you can make a difference!
1. Give your support!
There are lots of really cool organisations that have been set up to help. Here are a few examples:
- Save the Tasmanian Devil Program – working hard to understand DFTD and to find a long-term solution to the plight of the Tasmania devil.
- The Australian Koala Foundation – has ‘Adopt a Koala’ and ‘Plant a tree’ programs aimed at increasing koala habitat.
- Save the Bilby Fund – runs bilby breeding programs and helped create a large predator-free area in Currawinya National Park, Queensland.
- WWF Australia – has an ‘Adopt an animal’ program aimed at raising awareness.
Visit their websites for more information about the organisations, their programs and all the ways you can help.
2. Keep your cat in at night!
At CTBK we love kitties but despite being cute and fluffy they can also be little killing machines – even when they are well fed! Not good for threatened birds and marsupials!
To help minimise the risk, wildlife organisations ask you to keep your cats inside at night, as this is the time they are most likely to catch little creatures. It is also recommended that you put a bell on your cat’s collar as this can help warn little creatures they are coming.
3. Drive slowly between dusk and dawn!
Make sure you slow down when driving at night, particularly if you see a road sign indicating that the area is populated by animals. Lots of our native wildlife is nocturnal, meaning that it is most likely to get run over between dusk and dawn.
Running over an animal is sad; running over a threatened species is a tragedy!
Get involved with CTBK!
The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project is in its early stages and needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of threatened species and the project.
Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind to Animals team