Last week, the Australian government added 49 species of plants and animals to its Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) list of threatened and endangered species.
The new additions include nine critically endangered species such as the myrtle elbow orchid (Thynninorchis nothofagicola), the copper beard orchid (Calochilus cupreus), the condamine earless dragon (Tympanocryptis condaminensis), and the greater sand plover (Charadrius leschenaultii).
The government also upgraded the conservation status of many species, including the swift parrot, regent honeyeater, and leadbeater’s possum from endangered to critically endangered.
Some conservationists say that the addition of species to the list shows that there is a better understanding of those species and the threats they face.
“Much of the updated information in any sort of endangered species list is usually a function of refined information and better data collection as opposed to an actual, real change in the status,” Corey Bradshaw, Sir Hubert Wilkins chair of climate change at the University of Adelaide, told ABC news.
“Because of the policy implications of a species being listed, it’s actually a really good thing from a conservation perspective that we have more species there because it certainly does restrict open-slather development, which has been characteristic of a lot of Australian development over the last 50 years.”
Gregory Andrews, threatened species commissioner, told The Guardian that the status of many species on the list were “out of date”, and an up-to-date recovery plan for the species necessitated changes in the list to accurately reflect their status in the wild.
“What hope is there? … The logging continues, the habitat loss continues – it’s no surprise that the species ends up on the threatened species list,” Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Jess Abrahams, told The Guardian.Some environmentalists, however, say that the additions simply show that the government is failing to protect its wildlife.
In fact, a report published last year Australian Conservation Foundation, BirdLife Australia and Environmental Justice Australia found that government plans rarely included measures to limit the habitat loss of some of the most endangered species in Australia.
“One of the very reasons the EPBC Act exists is to prevent extinction – to identify the species at risk and the actions the Australian people can and must take to turn their fate around. Yet, for the majority of species it is failing at this most fundamental task,” the authors wrote in the report last year.
“Not because the task is impossible – extinction is far from inevitable for the vast majority of threatened species in Australia. Extinction is the result of the decisions made by successive governments to ignore their own scientific advisers, and to neglect their obligation under our environmental laws to protect the ongoing evolution of life on the Australian continent.”