Australia has one of the worst extinction rates on Earth and it’s getting worse.

Bulldozing of bush and forest, invasive species and fires, floods and drought fuelled by climate change are destroying nature and driving wildlife to extinction.

Exclusive analysis from ACF has revealed the stark reality of nature destruction in 2023 by reviewing:

  • New species added to the national threatened species list
  • Hectares of bushland approved for clearing under our national nature laws
  • New fossil fuel projects that were given the green light

The confronting results of this research make one thing clear: we need new strong nature laws that stop habitat destruction and protect the forests, wetlands, reefs, mammals, birds and insects we still have.

Record number of species added to the threatened species list

The threatened species list is the national list of species moving toward extinction, and in 2023 a whopping 144 species were added to the list. This was the busiest year for threatened species list updates since it was established, with 2023 figures coming in at five times the average. It dwarfed the previous record of 74 species in 2009.

Among those added to the list were the Northern Quoll, the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon, and the Palm Cockatoo.

Earless dragon

Grassland Earless Dragon. Photo: John Wombey/CSIRO

The extraordinary number of new species added to our national threatened species list confirmed what many conservationists have known for many years – nature in Australia is in trouble. But the uptake in listings isn’t necessarily all bad news...

Why is the list increasing?

“The fact species are being listed as threatened is not the problem. Scientists nominated many of these species for listing years ago, so 2023’s high number shows the Environment Minister and her department are clearing the backlog and making the list better reflect reality,” said ACF’s nature campaigner Peta Bulling.

“The problem is the factors driving species onto the endangered list are not being stopped.

“In the last 12 months, 10,426 hectares of habitat destruction was approved under Australia’s national nature laws – the equivalent to clearing the size of the MCG 5,000 times over.

“This figure is undoubtedly just a fraction of the total habitat actually cleared, as land clearing in Australia often happens without being assessed under national nature laws.

“Clearing for agriculture, primarily beef production, represents the vast majority of this unregulated, unapproved clearing.”

Alongside habitat destruction, climate change is another driver of extinction, yet it doesn’t appear anywhere in our nature laws.

Peta Bulling

ACF nature campaigner Peta Bulling

“Since the Act came into force, 740 fossil fuel projects have been approved. Our national nature laws do not explicitly require the Environment Minister to consider harmful emissions or the climate warming potential of any individual project, or their cumulative impacts when assessing proposals.”

The Albanese government has committed to end extinctions, but until our national nature laws deal with the issue of habitat destruction and climate change, we are at risk of losing more of our precious Australian wildlife, forever.

“Australia is a world leader in mammal extinctions, so it’s sad to see two mammals – the koala and the northern quoll – among the threatened species most affected by federally approved habitat destruction in 2023. Clearly, we are not learning from the past.”

So, what can we do to see a safer 2024 for nature?

2024 is a critical year for nature with Australia’s nature laws currently being re-drafted. We are urging Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to make sure these reforms protect the homes of precious animals and plants from the bulldozers which keeps pushing unique and much-loved Australian species towards extinction.

You can read our full, detailed Extinction Wrapped 2023 here.

Peta Bulling

Nature Campaigner