If ever there were a country in a position to invest in protecting its precious wildlife, it was Australia. Yet the survival of dozens of species is at stake
Mon 4 Nov 2019 17.00 GMTLast modified on Tue 5 Nov 2019 02.45 GMT
The last time Australia experienced a quarter of national negative economic growth, the Soviet Union still existed, Nirvana were on the cusp of releasing Nevermind, and the first serious attempt to analyse and catalogue our threatened birds – The Action Plan for Australian Birds – was about to be published.
In the 28 years since, the lucky country has recorded the longest period of continual economic growth of any modern nation. Whether this was due to 1991 being “the recession we had to have”, the fundamentals of a strong, modern economy having been put in place, or the sheer dumb luck of being a beneficiary of the China boom, if ever there were a country in a prime position to be able to invest in protecting its precious wildlife, it was us.
So how has that worked out?
Not so well. Each decade since, lead author Prof Stephen Garnett has produced a further action plan for Australian birds. By the time of the 2010 action plan, the conservation status of 49 species of Australian bird had deteriorated since 1990. That is, they had been recognised as taking the next step towards extinction.
Garnett was in Melbourne last month , consulting with threatened-species experts in final preparations for the 2020 action plan. Final population estimates and other data are still being thrashed out; the early indications are not so promising for a turnaround in fortune for the majority of our threatened species. In fact, a 2018 report by the National Threatened Species Hub, with which Garnett collaborates, indicated that some of the birds in this year’s Bird of the Year poll, such as the regent honeyeater and the orange-bellied parrot, may not exist in the wild if the vote were to be run in 20 years’ time.