Two bird species, three fish species, a turtle, several skinks, geckoes and monitors and the Lord Howe earthworm are among 17 species added to the threatened species list yesterday, reinforcing the need to strengthen Australia’s environment law.

The sooty shearwater, a seabird known for its remarkable long-distance journeys, has been listed as ‘vulnerable’, while the red-tailed tropicbird, which breeds on Christmas Island, has been listed as ‘endangered’.

Mertens’ water monitor (endangered) and Mitchell’s water monitor (critically endangered) are large lizards that live in northern Australia. Both have suffered from the spread of poisonous cane toads, which they mistake for the native toads that make up their usual diet.

The other major threat to these lizards – as with many of the other species on the list – is their habitat being knocked down for agriculture, mining and real estate.

A number of the new additions are found in far north Queensland, including the Daintree rainbow fish and the Jardine River turtle.

“The Daintree rainbowfish was only identified by western science in 2018 and it is already listed as ‘critically endangered’,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature campaigner Peta Bulling.

“Many of these new threatened species live in far north Queensland, where they are being hit by climate-exacerbated extreme weather events.

“Australia is home to more than 10% of the world’s total reptile species. With 93% of our reptiles found nowhere else on earth it’s critical we protect our unique scaly wildlife.

“As conservation efforts often focus on the ‘cute and cuddlies’ it’s easy to forget about the unique reptiles that call our big backyard home.

“But the recent listing of 11 new species of reptile is a poignant reminder that governments and businesses are not doing enough to protect Australia’s reptiles.

“Australia has a terrible record when it comes to protecting our animals and plants.

“Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has set a worthy target of no more extinctions. To stop more Australian wildlife from heading to extinction, the government must urgently strengthen our national environment law and adequately fund threatened species recovery.”

Header pic: Mertens’ water monitor, by Peter Miller

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