National Threatened Species Day occurs every year on September 7th. It is a day to commemorate almost 2000 Australian plant and animal species that are listed as 'threatened'. Australia is facing an extinction crisis - but there is hope for our threatened species. 

Threatened Species Day and the Tasmanian Tiger

National Threatened Species Day marks the day the last Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) died in captivity. Accidentally left outside his enclosure at Hobart’s Beaumaris Zoo, the thylacine was exposed to a cold snap overnight and caught pneumonia in 1936. His species had been given ‘protected’ status less than two months earlier. The tragic story of the extinction of the thylacine in the early 20th century is not unlike what is happening to our current threatened species. A range of factors contributed to thylacine extinction – hunting, habitat loss due to land clearing, disease, and competition with other introduced species, such as dogs.

The most prominent factor, however, was the expansion of farming in the 1800s by European settlers in Tasmania. As farmers established sheep and cattle farms the reclusive thylacine was feared and hunted as a threat to livestock. By the 1930s only a few remained. The last known wild thylacine was killed in 1930, the last captive one died of neglect in 1936.

Can we learn from history?

Today, many of our threatened species are under increasing pressure from habitat destruction for agriculture, mining, and urban sprawl, as well as climate change fueled bushfires and predation from invasive species such as cats and foxes. The recently released State of the Environment Report reveals that “habitat loss and degradation is the most dominant mechanism by which species are threatened in Australia, with nearly 70% of Australian threatened taxa impacted”.

And just as the thylacine has disappeared from our world, ongoing habitat destruction is having devastating impacts for the 556 species on the national threatened fauna list and 1402 species on the national threatened flora list.

From the black cockatoo to the pygmy possum to the iconic koala, the hundreds of animals that make their way to the national threatened species list may suffer the same fate as the fabled Tasmanian tiger without the strong action needed to protect them. Neglecting our responsibility to these precious animals is tantamount to leaving them in the cold to die.

How can I help Threatened Species in Australia?

  • Sign the petition to call for stronger laws to protect nature: Protecting threatened species from extinction requires strong national laws to protect their habitat. Our current national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 has completely failed to halt threatened species habitat destruction in Australia.
  • Restore native vegetation and remove invasive species: Growing native plants and weeding out invasives regenerates habitat for native animals. In urban areas where the majority of us live, we can play a part in providing refuge for the many threatened birds, frogs, lizards, insects and mammals that can be found in our towns and cities.
  • Buy better and eat better: Australian agriculture accounts for 55% of Australian land use and is the leading driver of habitat destruction in Australia. By choosing sustainably grown, deforestation-free produce, or better yet, growing your own fresh produce at home, you can minimise the impact of farming on threatened species habitat.
  • Keep cats indoors: Animals such as cats are responsible for killing a wide variety and quantity of native animals. Australian researchers say cats have been a leading cause of at least 20, or two-thirds, of our mammal extinctions over the last 200 years, and on average a pet cat can kill about 75 animals per year—many of these kills are never witnessed by their owners.
  • Join an ACF Community group near you: meet face-to-face with people who love nature in your local area and are taking meaningful action to protect and restore it.

    Header image: Rare and endangered sea lions swim and play in the shallows of Hopkins Island, South Australia. Michael Patrick O'Neill / mpostock.com

Jess Abrahams

Nature lover. Mountain biker. Healthy Ecosystems Campaigner at ACF. Find me in the forest.

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