Call to extend animal extinction inquiry after bushfires

The Greens have called on the Federal Government to extend its Faunal Extinction Inquiry to investigate the impact of nationwide bushfires on endangered wildlife and flora, and whether enough funding has been allocated.

Jan 20, 2020, updated Jan 20, 2020
Flinders Chase National Park following the Kangaroo Island bushfires. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

Flinders Chase National Park following the Kangaroo Island bushfires. Photo: David Mariuz / AAP

An estimated one billion animals – mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and other species – have perished in bushfires since December.

That number is expected to rise with fires moving geographically and their after-effects rippling through the environment, such as bushfire ash washing into waterways causing fish kills, and habitat and food loss.

In the wake of the ecological loss, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has moved to extend the reporting deadlines on the extinction inquiry to explore the effects of the bushfires on native endangered animal populations.

The inquiry was set up in June 2018 to investigate the ecological impact of Australia’s animal extinction.

It also explored the proficiency of Commonwealth environment laws and guidelines. Last submissions were accepted on 13 November, 2019.

“The Faunal Extinction Inquiry can hit the ground running,” Hanson-Young said.

“The Committee can get out into the fire-ravaged areas so senators can see the extent of the devastation first hand, and bring together stakeholders and experts so recommendations can be made to the parliament about what needs to be done to prevent further species’ extinction.”

The committee tabled an interim report in April last year, saying: “Against the richness of Australia’s natural environment, our damning track record of faunal extinction and decreasing biodiversity is stark.”

“The most recent State of the Environment Report observes a continuing trajectory of decline in mammal species, and a very significant slump in populations of birds, concluding that: Based on the information available about vegetation extent and condition, and the small number of species for which there is some understanding of trends in distribution and abundance, the status of biodiversity in Australia is generally considered poor and deteriorating.”

Australia has nearly 500 threatened fauna species, with 90 considered extinct.

On Kangaroo Island, up to 25,000 chlamydia-free koalas have perished due to this season’s bushfires.

Experts are also concerned of the survival of the island’s endangered Liguarian honey bee, black glossy cockatoo and dunnart species.

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Last week the Federal Government committed $50 million to aid bushfire impacted wildlife.

Hanson-Young said the Federal Government must invest more than “petty cash” to tackle the current environmental crisis.

“We cannot rely on the government to get this right, they haven’t committed anywhere near enough money for fire recovery,” she said.

“The Senate needs to do what it can to aid fire recovery and ensure adequate funding and plans are in place to protect our native species and the environment they live in.

“Species like the Kangaroo Island dunnart and black glossy cockatoo, koalas, and even mainland quokka in Western Australia, have been killed, injured and suffered huge losses to their critical habitat.

“We are only halfway through summer – we don’t have time to waste.”

The Faunal Extinction Inquiry is expected to meet the first week Parliament resumes.

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